Finding Your Voice and Speaking Up After Being Sexually Harassed at Work

what to do if you have been sexually harassed

Facing sexual harassment at work often leaves survivors feeling silenced and powerless. However, speaking up could hold offenders accountable and could lead to change in the workplace. It also offers employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment legal protection.

If you have endured harassment on the job, actions you can take include documenting occurrences, confronting the harasser, reporting the incident to human resources or a member of management, and consulting sexual harassment lawyers to explore legal options. Above all, giving voice to the experience helps reclaim your power when feeling violated.

What is Considered Sexual Harassment?

It helps to educate yourself on what legally constitutes sexual harassment. Under federal law and the laws of the state of Florida, sexual harassment could be:

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

This refers to situations where employment-related decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotions, etc., are based on whether an employee submits to unwelcome sexual advances or requests. Basically, “If you do this for me, I’ll do that for you.”

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment covers verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a sexual nature that interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating or offensive environment. We’re talking behavior such as inappropriate touching, suggestive comments, displaying graphic images, etc.

The offending conduct must generally be pervasive and/or be severe enough to impact the employee’s terms and conditions of employment. However, certain conduct is so extreme that it does not need to happen repeatedly for it to potentially support a sexual harassment claim.

Actions to Take if You Are Sexually Harassed at Work

First, know that if you are being sexually harassed at work, that is unacceptable and could violate the law. You deserve to feel safe at work. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise or allow you to blame yourself.

That said, it is crucial you don’t ignore sexual harassment, hoping the problem will just go away. Chances are it will persist and likely get worse. So, while coming forward can be daunting or scary, speaking up could protect not just yourself but other current and future employees.

Address The Harasser Directly

If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, have a frank conversation with the harasser, making clear that his/her words or actions are unwanted and must cease immediately. If you have any discomfort about addressing the harasser directly, you should comply with your employer’s reporting procedures.

Thoroughly Document All Incidents

Keep a detailed record of dates, times, locations, and specifics of each occurrence, including any witnesses. Make sure to save written accounts, texts, images, or emails. Documentation creates critical evidence should legal action become necessary down the road. Notes in a journal or emails to yourself documenting all incidents can be helpful in supporting a potential claim.

Filing an Internal Complaint

It is important that you comply with your company’s internal complaint process. You should provide all relevant information, such as dates, times, locations, witnesses, exact words, and actions, to Human Resources or an appropriate manager.

You should also provide as many specifics and concrete evidence as possible. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act, once informed, employers must promptly investigate claims of sexual harassment and take corrective action if warranted.

An internal complaint sets things in motion, sparking an inquiry into the accused’s conduct, and could result in disciplinary measures against the accused, such as termination, sensitivity training, or reassignment. In addition, it offers you protection in the event there are any retaliatory actions taken against you, such as a reduction in pay, demotion, or wrongful termination.

Pursue Formal Legal Channels

Beyond internal reporting, employees experiencing sexual harassment should consider speaking to an employment lawyer to discuss their legal rights and options.

There are strict legal time limits to take formal action, so don’t delay. Otherwise, your claim could be time-barred. But remember to document everything thoroughly before pursuing a meeting with legal counsel.

Prioritizing Self-Care and Support After Workplace Harassment

The emotional impacts of workplace sexual harassment often get overlooked but can be profound. Survivors frequently struggle with self-blame, doubt, anxiety, and depression. Seeking counseling provides an outlet to process the mental health effects. Speaking with others who’ve had similar experiences can validate what you’re feeling.

Self-care also proves critical when dealing with workplace harassment. Make time for proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Engage in relaxing hobbies that take your mind off things. Lean on trusted friends and family for moral support.

And know that by speaking up about intimidating, inappropriate behaviors, you’re defending not only your own rights but those of others as well. Find empowerment through solidarity.

Break the Cycle: Speaking Out Stops Workplace Harassment in its Tracks

Combatting deeply ingrained cultures enabling workplace harassment requires courage and conviction from individuals willing to come forward. Remaining silent not only allows inappropriate behaviors to continue unchecked—it breeds an environment where sexual intimidation morphs into the status quo.

You need not carry the weight of this battle alone. The team at BT Law Group stands ready to support victims of workplace sexual harassment through every step of the process. BT Law Group provides guidance in understanding your rights and options, facilitate sensitive internal reporting, and pursue compensation through litigation where appropriate. Contact us today to discuss your options, which could include scheduling a consultation.

Author Bio

BT Law Group is an employment law firm in Miami, FL, founded by attorneys Jason D. Berkowitz and Anisley Tarragona. With a wealth of experience in various legal areas, they represent clients in various legal matters, including discrimination, unpaid wages, wrongful termination, management counseling, and other cases.

Since receiving their Juris Doctorates from the University of Miami School of Law, they have received numerous accolades for their accomplishments, including being selected to Rising Stars by Super Lawyers. Jason was also selected to The 2021 Best Lawyers in South Florida.

State Bar Association | Linkedin | Facebook | Google