What to Do if My Coworker is Sexually Harassing Me
California law protects employees against all forms of discrimination in the workplace, including sexual harassment. While the country has been making strides towards shedding light on and eliminating sexual harassment in many industries, the problem is still, unfortunately, widespread. If your coworker or manager is sexually harassing you, there are steps you can take to make sure that the conduct stops. If your employer fails to take appropriate action, they can be held accountable for their complicity in such illegal conduct. Continue reading for tips on what to do if you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. Reach out to a dedicated California workplace harassment and sex discrimination lawyer with any questions or for help with an employment-related matter.
If you feel safe and comfortable, make it clear that the conduct is unwelcome
If you feel comfortable doing so, express to your coworker that their conduct is problematic. Particularly if their actions are merely annoying and offensive but not actually predatory, the situation may be able to be resolved by making your position clear:
● “That type of communication/conduct makes me uncomfortable. Please stop doing it.”
● “I find that offensive. Please do not talk to me that way.”
● “I do not want to date you.”
This approach only applies if you feel safe confronting them. If the harasser’s conduct is predatory, if you feel unsafe confronting them, or if they continue their conduct even after you have made yourself clear, further steps are necessary.
Keep records of the harassing conduct
Unfortunately, there may come a time when it is your word against your coworker’s. The better records you keep of their conduct, the stronger your claim will be with your employer or outside authorities. If they are sending you harassing emails, texts, or voicemails, do not delete the messages. If they are making lewd gestures or verbal comments to you in person, take notes of each encounter and incident of harassment and keep those for later reference.
Report the incident to HR or a manager
There are many reasons why confronting a harasser directly can be intimidating, uncomfortable, and even inadvisable. If the conduct goes beyond merely annoying, confronting them may not feel like a real option, and that is perfectly OK. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, your employer has a responsibility to respond appropriately to the incident or ongoing behavior. Report the conduct to your human resources department or a manager. We suggest you make your report in writing via email, letter, or even text. Companies should have a procedure in place for reporting sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct.
Many companies even offer an anonymous tip line if you would prefer not to go on record with your own name just yet. In these companies, you can call the harassment hotline, leave a written account, or send an anonymous email, depending on the options afforded by your HR department. After you report the incident, you can follow-up to see what actions are being taken. Depending on the nature of the conduct, the coworker may be reprimanded, transferred, or terminated. But remember, the company cannot protect you if they do not know who you are. It is against the law for the company to retaliate against you for reporting sexual harassment.
Keep records of your conversations with your employer
When you report the incident to HR or a manager, keep records of the conversation. Keep copies of any letters you send or receive, keep any emails exchanged, and take notes on any verbal conversations over the phone or in person. If there comes a time when your employer disputes your claims or argues that you never alerted them to the harassing conduct, it is extremely helpful to be able to refer to contemporaneous notes or direct documentary evidence of your communications.
Call a lawyer
If you report the conduct to your employer and they do not take appropriate steps to stop the conduct or reprimand the coworker, it is time to look outside of your workplace to resolve the issue. Call a sexual harassment lawyer to discuss your options. The lawyer can advise you on the next steps, including filing a complaint with the EEOC or the DFEH or filing a lawsuit against the coworker and your employer for the conduct and the employer’s failure to respond.
Contact a San Francisco Bay Area Sexual Harassment Attorney Today
If you have experienced sexual harassment, sex discrimination, or any other form of workplace discrimination, you have rights. Northern California gender discrimination attorneys Richard Koss and Rand L. Stephens and will aggressively fight for you. Take action today and call us for a consultation at 650-722-7046 on the San Francisco Peninsula or 925-757-1700 for our East Bay office.