Here’s What To Do – and Not Do.
Most of us have been there, so I’m not even going to discuss the overwhelming numbers of women who have been harassed or assaulted at work.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Let’s start with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Here’s how the EEOC defines sexual harassment (frankly we were surprised at how low the bar is to be ILLEGAL; most us of have been through much worse):
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature
- Offensive remarks about a person’s sex
- Offensive comments about women in general
- Offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are so frequent or severe that the work environment is hostile or offensive, or results in the abused person quitting or being demoted
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer
What are you supposed to do?
Rule #1: KEEP A DIARY
Remember how James Comey left every meeting with Trump and wrote detailed notes about the meeting then offered those for testimony? That’s what you do. In real time.
Rule #2: KEEP EVERYTHING
You’ll be tempted to throw away disgusting emails, notes, back-of-napkin comments, but don’t. Keep everything and take it home with you so no one else can “accidentally” throw your evidence away.
RULE #3: DO YOUR RESEARCH
Refer to your company’s manual to see what the company’s policies are. Call your company’s hotline if they have one to obtain information anonymously. But don’t call from your office phone!
RULE #4: LOOK FOR ALLIES
Is there someone you trust who has witnessed this behavior? Is there someone else who was rumored to have the same experience? There is power in numbers.
RULE #5: GO TO HR BUT GO CAUTIOUSLY
Don’t expect HR to be on your side because they represent the company – not you. But go anyway, because if you fail to report, then no one will believe you later on if you are fired and then claim abuse.
IN SOME STATES …
In some states, it is legal to record conversations without divulging this to the other party.
Can You Take Legal Action?
Well, it depends.
The Statute of Limitations (SOL) for filing an EEOC claim is 180 days from the date of the last incident. State laws vary, but most states land at about one year from the date of the last incident.
But let’s suppose you got sick and tired and quit or were fired – your ability to take legal action over the next year depends on what you signed when you left. If you (even unknowingly) signed a release in exchange for severance, the release is likely enforceable. Although an EEOC complaint is still possible, there is little incentive to pursue that claim if you have waived damages.
So – be careful what you sign.
And contact us if you see evidence of systematic abuse of power and harassment.
We’re here to help you.