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Eight Steps You Can Take to Deal with Sexual Harassment

Tags:  Sexual harassment, Discrimination

Bob and Chuck had been giving Marvin a hard time in the lunch room about his lack of dates. Thinking he was just talking to a couple of work buddies, he had let it slip that he was having a dry spell with women.
His so-called buddies thought it was funny and decided to needle Marvin about it. Over the next few weeks, they taunted him, called him gay, and stuffed sexually explicit pictures into his locker.
When he told them to knock it off, things heated up. That is until Marvin filed a sexual harassment claim against Bob and Chuck.
A little innocent flirting…an occasional sexual innuendo…an off-color joke…
All harmless fun, right?
Not to the twelve thousand plus American workers who filed sexual harassment claims in 2006 alone.
Whether it comes in the form of blatant behavior such as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature or in the form of sexual jokes, slurs and pictures, sexual harassment is real and can interfere with your work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile or even offensive work environment.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (http://www.eeoc.gov/index.html) sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances which include:
  • The victim as well as the harasser may be male or female. The victim does not have to be of the opposite gender.
  • The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.
What can you do?
Since every situation is different, it is up to each person to evaluate his or her own circumstances. However, if you feel you are being harassed:
  • Do not blame yourself.
  • Do not ignore the situation, as it typically will not go away.
  • Be direct and tell the harasser 'no.'
  • Keep records of any dates, times, places, and names of witnesses as well as retain any documentation the harasser may have sent to you.
  • Don't keep it to yourself. Tell a close friend or confidante. They can support and guide you.
  • Talk to your supervisor in confidence and find out what steps you can take.
  • Follow the procedures outlined by your company.
  • Seek counseling services through your insurance program or the company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (see related article on What Everyone Needs to Know About Employee Assistance Programs)
Know that it is not your fault and that something can be done. Ask for help and avail yourself of your rights.

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