About Abuse

In the Workplace

April 12, 2015

What can I do to be free of sexual harassment?

You have the right to be free from sexual harassment at work.  If you think you are being sexually harassed, here are some things you may want to consider doing:

  • Tell the harasser, verbally, in writing or via email, that you do not approve of his/her conduct and you want it to stop. (Keep records of anything you sent in writing or via email.)  Often, email can be the best way to notify an employer for two reasons:
  1. It creates a definitive electronic footprint with proof of notice and receipt (you can "bcc" yourself on the email, can ask for a response, or can even tag the email to reflect when it's been opened); and
  2. Perhaps less obvious, email may encourage an admission about the harassment or some other type of incriminating response from the harasser.  With email, people tend to respond very impulsively (without thinking). Unlike faxes or memos that someone has to type, send out, fax, mail, etc., people tend to rattle off -- and "go off" -- when they see an email message about harassment.
  • Write down details about the incident right after it happens so that you have a record of it. Include what happened, including the exact words or language used if you recall it, when it happened, what you did, whether anyone else saw it, and whom you told about it.
  • Talk to other employees to see whether they have been harassed as well.  You may be able to work together and offer each other support to stop the harassment.
  • Report the harassment to your supervisor as soon as possible and ask that it be stopped.  If you prefer to report it to your supervisor in person, be sure to send an email or another writing to memorialize (document) your meeting so that you have proof in writing.  If your supervisor is the harasser, report it to your supervisor’s boss.
  • File a formal complaint either with your place of employment or your union if these options are available to you.  Otherwise, contact the human resources department at your employment.  You may also want to file a complaint with the appropriate government agency and/or file a lawsuit – see paragraph below for more info.
  • Keep copies of any recorded conversations you send or receive about the harassment from anyone at your job.  This information may help your case by showing how people responded when you reported the harassment.*

In addition, you may want to consider contacting an employment discrimination lawyer who can look at your case in detail and give you advice about your options.  Some options may include filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with your state’s civil rights agency, human rights agency, or fair employment office.  Depending on the case, you may be able to file a lawsuit in court against your employer.  You can talk to a lawyer to find out more about the options available in your particular case.  For a lawyer referral service in your state, go to our Finding a Lawyer page.

* Some of the above tips came from the National Partnership for Women and Families’ Know Your Rights Manual