Contact an employment lawyer. Tell the person who is harassing you to stop. If you do not feel comfortable confronting the harasser directly, or if the behavior does not stop, check to see if your employer has an anti-harassment policy. It should. It may be on the employer’s website, in the employee handbook or available from HR. If there is a policy, follow the steps in the policy. The policy should give you various options for reporting the harassment, including the option of filing a complaint. If there is no policy, talk with a supervisor or with HR. You can talk with your own supervisor, the supervisor of the person who is harassing you, or any supervisor in the organization. Explain what has happened and ask for that person’s help in getting the behavior to stop. The law protects you from retaliation (punishment) for complaining about harassment. You have a right to report harassment, participate in a harassment investigation or lawsuit, or oppose harassment, without being retaliated against for doing so. Document, document, document. Document everything. Remember to contact an employment lawyer. Depending on your case facts, we can help you file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC to complain about the harassment. There are specific time limits for filing a charge (180 or 300 days, depending on where you work), so contact an employment lawyer promptly. You can also meet with EEOC to discuss your situation and your options. This conversation is confidential.
Workplace sexual harassment is real; it happens, and it happens a lot. Study after study has shown that it is one of the most harmful, traumatic power abuses that can be perpetrated against a victim. There’s no understating the seriousness of the problem, or how poorly the legal system, the political system and the right wing media have responded to it.
In Minarsky v. Susquehanna County, 2018 WL 3234243 (3d Cir. July 3, 2018), the Third Circuit reversed summary judgment for the employer because a jury could find that the sexual harassment victim was reasonable in not reporting the harassment for four years. In a footnote that will be cited for years to come, the Court said:
This appeal comes to us in the midst of national news regarding a veritable firestorm of allegations of rampant sexual misconduct that has been closeted for years, not reported by the victims. It has come to light, years later, that people in positions of power and celebrity have exploited their authority to make unwanted sexual advances. In many such instances, the harasser wielded control over the harassed individual’s employment or work environment. In nearly all of the instances, the victims asserted a plausible fear of serious adverse consequences had they spoken up at the time that the conduct occurred. While the policy underlying Faragher-Ellerth places the onus on the harassed employee to report her harasser, and would fault her for not calling out this conduct so as to prevent it, a jury could conclude that the employee’s non-reporting was understandable, perhaps even reasonable. That is, there may be a certain fallacy that underlies the notion that reporting sexual misconduct will end it. Victims do not always view it in this way. Instead, they anticipate negative consequences or fear that the harassers will face no reprimand; thus, more often than not, victims choose not to report the harassment.
Recent news articles report that studies have shown that not only is sex-based harassment in the workplace pervasive, but also the failure to report is widespread. Nearly one-third of American women have experienced unwanted sexual advances from male coworkers, and nearly a quarter of American women have experienced such advances from men who had influence over the conditions of their employment, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from October of 2017. Most all of the women who experienced harassment report that the male harassers faced no consequences. ABC News/Washington Post, Unwanted Sexual Advances: Not Just a Hollywood Story (Oct. 17, 2017), www.langerresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/…
Additionally, three out of four women who have been harassed fail to report it. A 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Select Task Force study found that approximately 75 percent of those who experienced harassment never reported it or filed a complaint, but instead would “avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behavior.” EEOC Select Task Force, Harassment in the Workplace, at v (June 2016), www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/upload/… Those employees who faced harassing behavior did not report this experience “because they fear[ed] disbelief of their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation.” Id.; see also Stefanie Johnson, et al., Why We Fail to Report Sexual Harassment, Harvard Business Review (Oct. 4, 2016), hbr.org/2016/10/why-we-fail-to-report-sexual-harassment (women do not report harassment because of retaliation fears, the bystander effect, and male-dominated work environments).