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What to do when you’re sexually harassed on the job

So you've been on the job for a couple months. You exchange numbers with one of your managers to talk about a shift you need changed. He seems nice enough. While you’re both working he keeps sending you explicit sexual jokes that make you feel uncomfortable. You ask him to stop, but he tells you to lighten up and keeps sending them to you. Your feeling of safety vanishes.

What can you do? You need this job and you’ve worked hard for it, but it’ll only hurt you mentally and emotionally if this harassment keeps up. Here are some steps to take:

Keep track of evidence

You’re going to need proof that this happened. So make sure you keep a record of all the texts and other messages as evidence, and make a note of the date it happened. Make sure to have print and backup copies in case anything happens with the device the texts were on.

What to know when you report it

This is a scary time for you. You’re about to report your manager for harassment and you’re afraid you might lose your job because of it. Here are some facts that should help ease that stress:

  • Protection – Employees are legally protected from any kind of retaliation, so you can’t be fired or even demoted.
  • You have time – You legally have one year from the last instance of harassment to file a state claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You also have 300 days to file with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • File anyways – No matter how long ago the harassment took place, it’s important to report it, because your employer still has a legal obligation to investigate the incident. There’s a good chance you’ll be helping other co-workers, too.

Who do you talk to?

This harassment is taking a toll on you. So, who do you go to when you feel uncomfortable, and it’s constantly weighing on you outside of work? You’ll want to report the incident to your human resources department, who will be in charge of conducting the investigation. It also might be wise to talk to a therapist to help alleviate some of the emotional stress you’re going through. If your case goes to court, the therapist can testify that the harassment did indeed have an emotional impact on you.

Beyond HR

If you don’t believe your employer investigated your claim to the best of their ability, you can always take it a step further. This would mean bringing your original complaint to an agency at the state or federal level such as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You can also bring it to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It’s also a good idea to consult with an attorney who specializes in employment law.

You should never have to feel uncomfortable or unsafe at your job due to inappropriate behavior. If you are subject to sexual harassment, remember that you have rights, and there are people out there who want to help you feel safe.

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