As a Milwaukee Sexual Harassment Attorney, I often meet with potential clients who are or have been victims of sexual harassment in their employment. This edition of my Wisconsin Employment Law Basics series of articles provides 7 tips for victims of sexual harassment.
There are state and federal laws that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace and protect employees from retaliation for complaining about and reporting sexual harassment perpetrated against themselves or others. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, physical contact of a sexual nature or being subjected to verbal or visual conduct of a sexual nature.
1. Do Not Blame Yourself
Many victims of sexual harassment are ashamed that they have become victims and may even blame themselves. Some victims question whether their conduct or dress somehow encouraged the harasser. There is nothing to be ashamed about. You did not cause the problem. Many harassers start slowly. It may start with a benign compliment and slowly, over time escalate to more serious actions. It can be vague when a line is crossed. It is important for victims to know that welcome conduct can become unwelcome. If you have tolerated sexual harassment it is OK to draw a line in the sand and say “Enough is Enough”
2. Do Not Ignore Sexual Harassment
As children many of us were taught that ignoring name calling by a bully will not give them the satisfaction of hurting your feelings and they will move on to someone else. In my experience, this almost never worked. The same is true with sexual harassment. Most sexual harassment is about power not lust. Ignoring or deflecting sexual harassment will not make it go away. In fact, ignoring sexual harassment in employment will often encourage the harasser to continue and possibly intensify the harassment. Your employment rights to be free from sexual harassment at work are hinged on opposing the harassment.
3. Oppose Sexual Harassment
Opposing sexual harassment can be difficult. It might seem easier to deflect sexual advances from a supervisor or to brush off inappropriate sexual comments by co-workers. Nevertheless, it is best practice to clearly and unequivocally let the harasser know that their conduct is unwelcome.
4. Report Sexual Harassment
Your employer has a legal obligation to provide a work environment free of sexual harassment. These obligations are triggered only when the employer becomes aware that sexual harassment is taking place. Most employers have sexual harassment policies. It is important to follow your employer’s policies when reporting sexual harassment. Failing to do so may adversely affect your legal rights.
5. Watch For Retaliation
Once you complain about and report sexual harassment to your employer keep an eye out for retaliation. It is a violation of the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee who reports sexual harassment in the workplace. If workplace rules are suddenly enforced more strictly against you or your work performance is being judged more critically after reporting sexual harassment you may be a victim of retaliation.
6. Do Not Quit Your Job
You should not have to quit your job because you are or have been a victim of sexual harassment. Your employer has an obligation to provide a workplace free of sexual harassment. If your employer fails to take appropriate remedial action to address workplace sexual harassment you have the right to file a complaint against your employer. Quitting your job may make your legal claims more difficult.
7. Get Legal Advice and Counsel
Knowing your rights and responsibilities under the law is important. If you believe that you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment and/or retaliation for reporting sexual harassment it is always best practice to contact a Milwaukee Sexual Harassment Attorney as soon as possible. An employment lawyer will advise you of your rights and counsel you about the best way to proceed to protect yourself and your job. Getting timely legal advice may assist you in resolving the situation, may prevent an adverse employment action and may strengthen your legal claims if there is an adverse employment action.
If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace contact Carroll Law Firm, SC, a Milwaukee Sexual Harassment Law Firm that will work tirelessly to advocate for your employee rights.