Why You Need to Speak Up about Sexual Harassment
Have you witnessed or experienced sexual harassment in your workplace? You may be wondering what you can do, or if you should even do anything at all. The answer to the latter question is a firm “yes.” Sexual harassment has no place anywhere, but especially not in a place where people need to be every day to support themselves and their families.
If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. In situations like these, your company will advise you to speak with human resources, but HR works to protect the company, not you. Speaking with an attorney does not mean you are filing a claim right away, but it will provide you with a trusted resource to turn to as you figure out what to do next.
How Workplaces Can Foster a Culture of Harassment
Your workplace can feel like a universe totally separated from the world outside. Most jobs operate on a hierarchy system, with employees being subjected to the whims of their employers. A good relationship with your employer can lead to promotions, more opportunities, and more income, while a bad one can leave you stressed and worried about job security. For this reason, people are often unwilling to speak up when their boss makes an inappropriate comment or joke.
If you are in a group meeting with your boss and other employees and someone makes a distasteful joke that your boss laughs at, chances are others in the room will laugh as well. Now there’s even more pressure to stay quiet. You may feel like you’ll be singled out if you speak up, or that you’ll lose favor with your boss and coworkers. This is how harassment develops in the workplace culture.
What Should I Do If I Witness Harassment?
You may witness to sexual harassment in the workplace but not be the victim of it. In these cases, you will need to tread carefully. The last thing you want to do is make the situation worse for the coworker being harassed. They may have reasons for not speaking out, such as fear of losing their job or skepticism that the situation will improve even if they do complain. You can’t pressure them to file a claim, and you can’t make one on their behalf. Here’s what you can do:
- Speak with your coworker about what you’ve witnessed and hear what they have to say about it. Be empathetic, don’t try to paint over their experience, and let them know you’re there to listen.
- Interrupt instances of harassment that you witness. You can do this by injecting yourself into the conversation or telling the harasser that you need their help with something so they get distracted.
- Talk with coworkers you trust about the harassment and get a feel for how comfortable the rest of the staff is with this treatment
- Keep these conversations focused on the harasser and not the person being harassed. You don’t want to violate their privacy or make them the subject of office gossip.
- Document the instances of harassment that you witness, including the dates, times, and all parties involved. If your coworker decides to file a claim, your records can be of use to them.
We Are Here When You’re Ready to Take Action
It doesn’t matter if you are ready to file a claim or are just curious about your options, the employment lawyer at Hoosier Law Firm, PLLC is here to help. No one deserves to feel uncomfortable in their workspace. Our experienced attorney can help you understand the law and brainstorm solutions to your problem. Not every instance will require legal intervention! Sometimes talking with HR will be enough to resolve the problem, but you want to be sure that you have a backup plan if your HR representative cannot stop the behavior.