What Can You Do About Unwanted Sexual Advances at Work?
Few things can make a workplace as uncomfortable as unwanted or unwelcome sexual advances from management or co-workers. Aside from the discomfort of having to handle the advances themselves, an employee may feel the added anxiety of wondering if their rejection of the advances will negatively impact their employment. Unwelcome sexual advances can cover a wide range of behaviors, but what the actions all have in common is that they make the victim uncomfortable because they are unwanted, objectionable, offensive, or not reciprocated. If you are experiencing these behaviors, you have rights as an employee to file complaints to stop the harassment.
What Are the Effects of Unwanted Sexual Advances on Employees?
Unwanted sexual advances can put an employee in a very stressful position. If the harasser is a supervisor, the victim may experience concerns about job security because they fear retaliation for refusing the advances. Some advances may even contain threats to the employee’s job, or conversely, the harasser may promise employment benefits in return for welcoming the advance. Even if the harasser is a co-worker, the unwelcome attention may rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment if it interferes with the victim’s ability to perform their job. Unwelcome sexual advances can have adverse emotional effects, and their repeated occurrence can contribute to low worker morale and result in clinical anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
What Should You Do if You’ve Been a Victim of Sexual Harassment?
If you’ve experienced unwelcome sexual advances at work, it is crucial to remember that every worker has the right to a discrimination-free workplace, which includes freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex. If you are dealing with these issues, the first step is to make it clear to the harasser that their actions are making you uncomfortable, and they need to stop. Having this statement in writing is best, if possible.
If the behaviors continue or if a single act is particularly severe, such as groping, it is time to follow your company’s sexual harassment reporting procedures outlined in your employee manual. If assault was involved, you should also contact the police. Collect any proof you have of the advances and your requests to have them cease. If your employer does not resolve the situation, you should contact a lawyer immediately to discuss your case and determine what further action you can take.
When Should You Contact a Lawyer?
Prevention is the most effective way to stop sexual harassment, and companywide education and training programs are vital to set guidelines and boundaries for appropriate behavior in the workplace. However, there are always people who don’t believe that the rules apply to them, and some workplaces have a toxic culture that allows harassment to continue unchecked. You can always contact a lawyer for advice on handling a sexual harassment situation at any point in the reporting process, even if you just need an outside opinion on the merits of your case.
Some instances of unwanted sexual advances at work can be quickly remedied by clearly telling the individual to stop or by notifying HR or management of the harassment. But if you have exhausted all of the internal channels for addressing the issue and the advances are ongoing, or you are facing negative consequences for reporting or resisting the harassment, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Call our offices today at (805)330-3393 to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation with our experienced sexual harassment lawyers.