Workplace harassment is an ongoing problem that occurs in many offices and job sites. In fact, it’s been reported that 60% of women experience some form of harassment in the workplace, whether it be verbal or physical. Of those cases, 90% of people never file a formal complaint, thereby left to return to a hostile, inappropriate environment.
So, what happens when an incident occurs at work, leaving you to feel vulnerable and unheard? There are several steps you can take to protect yourself and ensure your workplace remains professional.
What is Harassment?
Before we jump in, let’s first take a look at how harassment is officially defined. Remember that harassment doesn’t need to fall into one or two categories. Inappropriate co-workers can verbally, physically, and digitally harass you. Catcalling, touching, flirtatious emails, and even wearing someone down with impossible deadlines or constant belittling constitutes harassment.
Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has laws in place to protect the rights of each employee. Brush up on the laws put in place to specifically protect you. If anyone in your workplace crosses the line, stand up for yourself and say something.
Try to Iron Things Out
Of course, it’s not up to you to smooth things over with inappropriate co-workers. If you’d rather immediately take your case to a manager or human resources, do so. However, if you feel that an off-handed remark or tasteless joke can be dealt with on your own, try to approach the person in private.
Let them know how their actions or comments made you feel. If you open their eyes to inappropriate behavior, they may recognize your concerns and stop. On the other hand, if they persist or ignore you completely, it’s time to file a formal complaint.
How to File a Complaint
There should be several people in your workplace who you can speak with about inappropriate behavior. Your HR representative and managers are equipped to deal with these types of situations. So, gather as much information as possible. Do you have any physical evidence such as emails, witnesses, or text messages? Whatever details you can collect, bring them to your meeting.
Tell your manager or rep how the incident made you feel and clearly state what you’d like to see happen. Your bosses aren’t in charge of how you feel, so stand your ground and tell them what you want done to make you feel safer.
Hire Outside Sources
Unfortunately, not every complaint is taken seriously. Even if they are, those who were harassed may feel short changed by the repercussions. If you feel that not enough was done, it’s time to look at outside sources. There are plenty of online resources you can contact in addition to seeking out lawyers in your area. Depending on who you speak to, you may be able to receive a free consult as well.
Remember that the workplace isn’t supposed to be a hostile environment. Don’t be so quick to brush off little comments or situations because “they happen everywhere.” That’s part of a larger issue. It’s not normal for your boss to pry into your life with embarrassing questions. Employers aren’t supposed to humiliate you. Supervisors shouldn’t rub your shoulders in a “friendly manner.” If something makes you uncomfortable at any time, speak up. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.