Six Ways to Handle Sexual Harassment at Work

According to a survey by Cosmopolitan magazine, 1 in 3 women have been sexually harassed in the workplace. And as Zenbusiness explains, one incident of toxic workplace behavior can have a far-reaching effect on the entire company. The first step towards dealing with sexual harassment within your company is to recognize the signs. The Women in Finance & Investment Network presents the following advice.



Indications of Sexual Harassment

This type of harassment consists of a pattern of repeated behavior that is unreasonable, intimidating, humiliating or threatening to a woman based on her gender. If left unchecked, it may lead to health and safety risks within your organization. Often sexual harassment may begin as indirect or discreet behavior and then gradually escalate over a period of time. Signs include:


  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favours
  • Inappropriate physical contact
  • Verbal conduct of a sexual nature
  • Offensive jokes and pictures


So how do you deal with sexual harassment in your workplace?


Talk to the Instigator

This first step you can take is to talk to the person directly. Don’t let the moment pass by. Talk to the perpetrator immediately and make it very clear that his advances are unwelcome. If your harasser continues with the same behaviour, warn him that you will file a complaint with your supervisor if he continues. In some cases this will do the trick; a warning will be enough to stop the behaviour once the harasser has been threatened with a report. If he fails to stop, there is further action you can take.


Seek Witnesses and Other Victims

The person who is harassing you may also be harassing other victims. You may also find that other people in your workplace have filed complaints against this person in the past. If there are other complaints take a look at them, study the testimony and get copies of it. This can help you with any reports you intend to file.


Let Your Supervisor Know

If talking to your harasser was ineffective, it’s time to let your supervisor know. Do not suffer sexual harassment in silence. It is an illegal and unhealthy practice. Write a formal letter to your supervisor stating the times, dates and locations of each incident. Also, arrange a meeting with your supervisor so you can discuss the issue in person.


Inform Your HR Manager

As well as letting your supervisor know, it’s best if you also contact your human resources manager. HR can advise you on what type of action to take concerning the incidents of sexual harassment. Your HR manager should be willing to give you objective advice.


Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

If your complaint to your supervisor or HR has had no effect on the incidents of sexual harassment, you should contact the EEOC. You can file a charge with them which will trigger an investigation. Let the EEOC know your employer’s name, the name of the perpetrator and the full details surrounding the incidents.


File a Lawsuit

After you file a complaint with the EEOC, you may be able to file a lawsuit. Most state laws require that you exhaust all other possible remedies before filing a legal complaint. If you do decide to file a lawsuit, you may seek monetary damages, or attempt to be reinstated in your job if your employer fired you due to the incidents of sexual harassment. If you plan to file a lawsuit, you should be sure to seek legal representation from an attorney who specializes in sexual harassment cases.

Do not ignore sexual harassment in your workplace. Not only will it impact you, but it may also affect other workers and lower workforce morale. The longer it continues to go unaddressed, the more of your co-workers may be targeted. While it happens to men sometimes as well, women have enough issues to deal with in the workplace without having to deal with harassment.  


Author: Elena Stewart, USA

WIFIN Insights 2021