If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, you must take certain steps to protect your rights. These steps will not only potentially help you put an end to the mistreatment and improve your work conditions, but it will also help you preserve your right to file a lawsuit and prove your case in court.
Confront the Person Mistreating You
While this may be an undesirable situation, you must first talk to the offender. Not only is this one of the most effective ways to stop the person from harassing you, but it also puts him/her on notice.
In a harassment case, you must prove that you do not welcome the offender’s behavior by showing that you told him/her you were offended by his/her actions. Without doing so, the offender may claim that you did not mind such behavior because you failed to speak out.
File a Complaint with Your Employer
Whether speaking out did not stop the behavior or you avoided the confrontation entirely, you must then file an internal complaint. Be sure to review your employee handbook or discuss the issue with your HR department, then strictly follow those instructions.
When you file a complaint with your company, you give your employer a chance to investigate and fix the issue, as well as preserve your legal rights. Additionally, your complaint puts the company on notice of the adverse behavior and makes holds it responsible to resolve the problem.
Keep in mind, if your employer was aware of the mistreatment you suffered from a coworker or manager, then you may also hold the company accountable for such harassment. If the company does not take the necessary steps to improve or resolve the situation, you may be able to recover more damages, including punitive damages.
File an Administrative Charge with the EEOC
Prior to filing a federal harassment or discrimination lawsuit, you need to file an administrative charge with the Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a similar state government body. Failure to do so means your lawsuit will be dismissed.
As soon as you file a charge, the EEOC or agency will inform your employer. Once the agency processes your claim, you may be issued a “right to sue” letter, which will allow you to file a lawsuit.