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Sexual harassment at work: Steps you can take

You never expect to be the victim of sexual harassment at your place of employment, but there's always a chance this could happen. From your supervisor to a coworker to a client, it's possible someone could put you in an awkward and potentially dangerous situation.

Here are a few steps to take if you're the victim of sexual harassment at work:

  • Speak up immediately: Don't make the mistake of sitting back and hoping that the person stops on his or her own. You need to speak up, letting the harasser know that you are not going to stand for this type of behavior. It doesn't always work, but it may be just what you need to put an end to the harassment before it worsens.
  • Read your employee handbook: This is where you will find information on sexual harassment in the workplace, such as the steps you can take if you become a victim. There should be clear language on how to report this behavior and what to expect from your employer.
  • Talk to the right people: Maybe you tell your supervisor about what's happening, hoping that he or she can step in and make things right. Or maybe you get in touch with your HR department, knowing that they're responsible for handling such situations.
  • Take notes: You should track all instances of sexual harassment, such as by writing down the time, date and exactly what happened.
  • File an administrative charge: If you can't resolve your issue internally, you should learn more about your legal rights on both the state and federal level. For example, you can consult with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the next steps to take.

If you take these steps and still need to push forward, you may need to look into litigation. This can lead to remedies such as:

  • Reinstatement if you have lost your job
  • Back pay
  • Damages for emotional distress

It's your hope that things don't go this far, but you should never stop short when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment at your place of employment.

As long as you're devoted to stopping the harassment immediately and protecting your legal rights, you should feel good about where things are heading in the days, weeks and months to come.

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