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Coping with sexual harassment at work

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2013 | Sexual Harassment |

There are several things victims of workplace sexual harassment can do to deal with the situation.

First, tell the harasser to stop. The harasser must know that his conduct is unwelcome, offensive and must stop. If the employee’s complaints directly to the harasser do not work, or if the harassment victim is too scared to confront the harasser, the victim can send a letter or email telling the harasser to stop. Sometimes a third person can tell the harasser to stop on behalf of the employee.

Victims should let a supervisor and/or human resources know what is happening. Although reporting the harassment is not an absolute requirement for the employee, it may be company policy and will put the employer on notice to take steps to stop the harassment. Reporting the harassment may help show to a jury that the conduct was unwanted and unwelcomed if that point is later contested.

The victim should also take steps to cope with the emotional effects of sexual harassment. Harassment at work can be devastating. While there are many different types of reactions – some employee victims will be hysterical, some will be in denial and remain calm, and some will struggle and ask themselves why they have been harassed and if it is their fault. This latter reaction is often associated with guilt and shame and makes it  more difficult to seek help or to report the harassment. However, it is very important to seek help from a doctor or therapist. Employee rights attorneys will often be able to refer a specialist.

The effects of sexual harassment often include feelings of embarrassment, denial, fear, and confusion. The victim may suffer depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, sleeplessness, inability to concentrate, headaches, being tired, stomach upset, anger, withdrawal and isolation, or problems with intimacy. The victim may suffer decreased work performance, increased absenteeism and the loss of a good job reference.

If a victim of harassment does seek help from a doctor, therapist or other mental health professional, this person may later testify as a witness about the effects of the sexual harassment on the victim. The mental health records may be discoverable by the attorney for the employer in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Finally, in serious cases, the employee should consult with an attorney. The attorney should be a lawyer that specializes in employment cases and sexual harassment or sex discrimination claims. The best lawyers in this field handle these types of legal matters on a contingency basis and advance all costs. This means the employee will pay nothing until she or he recovers.

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