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If 2017 has taught us anything, it's that sexual harassment and even sexual assault in the workplace is rampant, across almost every industry and at almost every level of employment. Sadly, many instances of workplace harassment go unreported, meaning the problem is even more pervasive than we might have even thought.
There are many reasons for not reporting sexual harassment, from embarrassment to fear of retaliation, and some victims may not even realize that the behavior they experienced constitutes harassment. So here are three of the most common mistakes when it comes to responding to workplace sexual harassment, and how to avoid them:
1. Not Identifying Sexual Harassment
In order to respond to sexual harassment, you have to know what it is. Harassment is prohibited by federal law, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provide guidance on identifying sexual harassment in the workplace. It's important to know that the gender of the harasser and the victim are irrelevant, and the victim doesn't need to be the target of the harassment in order to file a complaint.
2. Not Reporting Sexual Harassment
Like we said, many if not most of all instances of harassment go unreported at the time. This means more people can be victimized by harassers and claims may be harder to prove later down the line. Also, there may be time limits on reporting sexual harassment. If you experience sexual harassment at work you should absolutely report it, rather than ignoring it or responding to the harasser directly.
3. Not Following Company Policies or Statutory Procedures When Reporting Sexual Harassment
Once you've made the decision to report sexual harassment, you need to report it properly. All employers should have detailed internal reporting policies and procedures identifying the actions you can take in response to sexual harassment. These should include to whom the report should be made and how, along with specific steps the employer should take in response to a sexual harassment complaint. There are also specific procedures to follow when reporting harassment to the EEOC, should your employer fail to properly respond to your complaint.
If you've been the victim of sexual harassment at work, or a witness to it, you should contact a local employment attorney for help.