Victims of workplace sexual harassment have options

Frank S. Clowney III

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms, such as obscene jokes or comments, or other inappropriate behavior that makes a California worker, whether male or female, feel uncomfortable. Employees who experience this behavior may not know what to do when it happens to them.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not specifically addressed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but courts have ruled harassment exists when a hostile working environment is created. Employee handbooks may be more detailed in what constitutes this harassment, so workers should familiarize themselves with their company’s policies. Their definitions may include inappropriate touching, crude jokes or anything that makes one person feel uncomfortable.

When workers are made to feel uncomfortable, they should first take it up with the person exhibiting the unwanted behavior. Getting something in writing, such as an email, is a good way to start. If the behavior continues, the person may want to report it to their supervisor or the company’s human resources department, which will probably conduct an internal investigation. The victim may also want to request a transfer to a different department.

If the company does not investigate the sexual harassment claim or the results aren’t satisfactory to the victim, they may want to contact an employment attorney for assistance. The victim may want to consult an attorney even before filing a complaint with their employer. An employment law attorney can outline to an affected client the different remedies that may be available in a particular situation, including pursuing administrative relief through the filing of a workplace discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “6 Things to Know About Workplace Sexual Harassment”, Jada A. Graves, Feb. 12, 2015