What to Do If You See Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sep 15 2017

Just do a quick internet search and you can find many websites that discuss what you should do if you’re being sexually harassed at work. But what if you’re the one who witnesses the harassment?

Sexual harassment occurs more often than one might think, even in this day and age. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there were 12,860 formal complaints of sexual harassment in 2016 — an increase over 2015 and 2014 numbers.

Recent stories reporting harassment and gender discrimination at Uber, Fox News, and Amazon are reminders that women still experience harassment because of their gender. But what does gender or sexual harassment look like?

How Can You Tell It’s Sexual Harassment?

What is sexual harassment in the workplace? It’s not necessarily like it’s depicted in the movies (although it could be) where a male manager is propositioning a female secretary. In fact, harassment is not always so obvious – sometimes it can take the form of a  sexual comment or a sexually suggestive email.

Some examples of this type of harassment that is illegal under federal and Connecticut law are:

  • Sexually explicit comments about a co-worker
  • Staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner
  • Sharing inappropriate images or videos with co-workers
  • Making sexual or vulgar gestures
  • Telling lewd jokes
  • Asking about a co-worker’s sexual history or sexual orientation
  • Making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity

If You Witness Harassment

If you are being harassed, it may be difficult for you to decide to speak out and complain —  especially if the harasser is your manager or superior. But if you are a witness to such abuse, you may be questioning what you should do about the situation. It can be awkward and confusing, but this type of behavior should not be allowed to continue.

The most important thing you need to do if you see sexual harassment in the workplace is speak up. This is always your first course of action, whether you see the harassment or you’re the victim. If you see or experience sexual harassment or gender discrimination, speak to your human resources manager or your superior. It is the responsibility of a superior to report these types of complaints to the employer so they can be investigated.

You should also document what you have seen in case you are asked about the incident in the future. You should become familiar with your employer’s policies (if any) concerning this type of harassment.

You may be worried about retaliation if you report what you believe is sexual harassment.  Although retaliation may be a legitimate concern, it is also illegal.

Learn Your Legal Options

If you are being sexually harassed at work in Connecticut, you should contact the sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawyers at Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C., for an evaluation of your situation and advice on how to proceed.

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