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How to respond to sexual harassment at work

Sexual harassment is unacceptable behavior, especially in the workplace. If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, there are actions you can take to stop the problem. However, it is important that you do not wait too long to act because a Charge of Employment Discrimination, if it comes to that, must be filed within the first 180 days after the act of sexual harassment.

Request that the actions stop

Whenever possible, a good first step to resolve the problem is to tell the person that his or her actions offend you, and ask him or her to stop. In some situations, the person may not realize how the behavior is making you feel, and once the person knows the behavior is unwelcome, he or she may stop.

File a complaint with your employer

If the behavior does not stop, you should follow your employer’s procedure for reporting sexual harassment. Typically, this will require you to report the incident to your manager, human resources or another person with the company.

While you can report the incident verbally, it is often best to do so in writing. You can also follow up with a formal complaint letter, which should include the names, dates, comments, actions and consequences. You should put all the related events into chronological order and note any ongoing behaviors if there are any.

File a Charge of Employment Discrimination

If you are unable to resolve the problem with your employer, you can file a Charge of Employment Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This can be done online or in person at an EEOC office. The EEOC could ask you and your employer to attend mediation or it might launch an investigation. It may also close the investigation if it determines the criteria for an investigation have not been met.

Consider litigation

Litigation is an appropriate action in some situations. However, you must have a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC before you can file a federal lawsuit. Often, the EEOC will want at least 180 days to try to resolve this charge before you file a lawsuit, but this is not always the case.

No one should have to put up with sexual harassment at work. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you should consider responding right away by asking that the actions stop and filing a complaint with your employer. If the offensive behaviors continue, you can file a Charge of Employment Discrimination and consider litigation.

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