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How should I deal with sexual harassment at work?

Sexual harassment can create a hostile and unwelcoming environment at your place of work. As a result, many people who experience this form of harassment are unsure of how to proceed when it presents itself. The actions you take can have a real impact on subsequent claims, which is why The Balance offers the following advice.

Determine whether it was sexual harassment

It can be difficult to determine whether what occurred was actually sexual harassment. Fortunately, applying certain criteria might provide the insight you need. Ask yourself these questions; were you offended by the exchange? Would a reasonable person also be offended? Was the statement intended to be taken seriously? As an example, it would be hard for a reasonable person to take a statement that a sexual relationship is the only way to secure a raise as a joke. However, not all instances of harassment will be this cut and dry.

Speak with the person making the statements

Whether you decide to pursue further action, it’s recommended that you speak with the person responsible for making questionable statements before taking any next steps. In clear language, say you’re not comfortable with the statements being made and that you want them to stop. Reiterate this sentiment every time harassment occurs so the responsible party has a clear understanding that the behavior is unwanted. 

Follow company procedures

If you choose to take the next steps and report the issue, be sure to follow your company’s exact procedures. This could entail who to report harassment to, what details or backing information you need to include, as well as other directions. Once you filed the complaint, follow up with a formal letter of the incidents and how you responded. If your company fails to act in a reasonable manner, the next step should be to hire an attorney with experience in employment issues.

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