How do you handle unwanted sexual advances at work?
Women have been dealing with this issue for decades, and they've had to think up all sorts of defenses to discourage unwanted suitors. Some conventional advice women were once offered included things like instructions to pretend that they had a husband at home (even wearing a ring), making up a boyfriend (if the boss or client knew they weren't married) and making sure to dress as conservatively as possible.
The problem with that kind of advice is that it puts the responsibility to prevent harassment from starting on the potential victim instead of putting it on the shoulders of the potential harassers.
Instead of relying on fictional romantic partners and oversized sweaters to save you from sexual harassment, take these steps instead:
1. Ask the other person to stop.
Speak up and make it clear that you want the other person to stop the behavior. A clear, no-nonsense approach can be more powerful than many people realize.
2. Write it all down.
If the harassment doesn't stop, you need to put your complaint in writing. Keep your complaint clear and add as much specific detail as you can. Where and when did the harassment happen? Who was there? What was said or done?
3. File your complaint.
Where you take your complaint depends on who is responsible for the harassment. If it's a client or a co-worker, you can go to your supervisor or boss. If it's the supervisor or boss, you want to take your complaint to the human resources department. If that isn't possible, you can go directly to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC can investigate and either pursue litigation on its own or give you the opportunity to file a lawsuit.
If you've been the victim of sexual harassment at work, an attorney can help you address the issue if you aren't comfortable handling it on your own. For more information on how our firm approaches these issues, please visit our page on sexual harassment.