Millions of Americans have undergone some sort of sexual harassment at work. They usually experience this harassment through negative interactions that they feel no need to complain about. But these minor interactions build up over a period of months and years. They lead to the country losing billions of dollars in productivity on an annual basis.
Victims of harassment at work often do not know where to turn. They know that their employers and managers are not particularly concerned about the harassment. While some employers make gestures to show that they are worried by this form of harassment, many of these same individuals do not want to upset their company structure and adequately deal with the problem. Employees often work in states where individuals can be fired without any stated reason. They are understandably fearful for the future of their jobs if they speak out about harassment at work. But the legal system is designed to help individuals who are being afflicted in this manner.
What is harassment at work?
Harassment at work covers a wide variety of inappropriate activities that a person can engage in. The difference between assault and harassment is that there is not a physical component to harassment. Harassment is verbal and can also be written down or visual. It can involve making lewd comments or propositions to a coworker.
Harassment can involve sexist or sexually charged jokes made either towards or in the presence of a coworker. Any command or act that is demeaning to a person based on their sex or gender can constitute harassment at work. Harassment can also result from retaliation or negative actions taken based on a person’s sex. Any manager who fires, belittles, or punishes an employee because that employee refused his or her sexual advances is guilty of harassment at work.
Numerous misconceptions abound about the nature of harassment at work. Many people believe that a woman cannot commit harassment against a man. In fact, a person of any gender can commit harassment at work against a person of any other gender. The idea of harassment has little to do with sex and much more to do with power.
Sexual harassment has many negative effects on both the victim and on the company in general. It is not simply a handful of random comments that are forgotten as soon as they are said. Instead, people who suffer harassment at work feel shame and disgust that greatly harm an individual’s productivity.
These comments cause psychological trauma. They cause an employee to have lower levels of self-esteem and to avoid the relationships and interactions that often give people enjoyment at work. Harassment causes thousands of people to leave their jobs every year. It creates headaches for companies that then need to fill those positions that are left open. In addition to all of these problems, harassment at work is illegal and causes legal trouble for the people and the company at large. It can end up bankrupting an otherwise successful company.
Sexual harassment also helps contribute to a climate of bullying in a business. People who are not acting as a bully feel intimidated. They feel as though they cannot speak out openly and honestly about events happening at their jobs. These people are unable to collaborate to solve the problems that even the most successful businesses face on a daily basis. Harassment at work has many more negative consequences than people feeling offended by an inappropriate joke.
What to do
There are a number of steps that an individual can take in order to combat harassment at work. They can start by going through their company’s internal procedures. These procedures often involve consulting managers and working one’s way up through the chain of command. They can also work with human resources professionals at a company. These individuals are supposed to be independent from the company structure and work on behalf of employees for the greater good of the company. But even the best HR departments cannot deal with all harassment complaints. They have to report to bosses and ownership. If ownership does not believe that harassment is a problem, internal solutions will be greatly restricted.
In that case, individuals need to turn towards West Coast employment lawyers and remedying the problem on their own. They can start by collecting as much evidence as possible against the people who harassed them. An employee can start talking to witnesses and saving emails that they can use later on in a legal proceeding.
Early on, a person who believes they have been sexually harassed needs to consult the aid of a sexual harassment attorney who specializes in workplace law. The employment attorney will help guide their future actions and dictate how to deal with their coworkers and their boss. Then, the employment attorney often works through the company and through government agencies such as the state labor department.
They want an administrative ruling that will help them secure just compensation for their client. If that process fails, the sexual harassment attorney enters the settlement discussion process and attempts to secure a settlement that will satisfy both parties. West Coast employment lawyers turn to lawsuits only when they have completely exhausted the negotiation process and are certain that they will not be able to secure a settlement.
Anyone who has been a victim of harassment at work needs to take swift action in order to remedy the problem. It is not a problem that will be handled by a large number of human resources departments. It is also not something that an individual should expect managers to proactively stop or fight against. Instead, it is an issue where a person needs to make it clear that they cannot be unfairly treated by their company and their fellow employees. Taking legal action means that a person might be subject to the possibility of losing their job and facing retaliation. But it can also be the only way that many victims succeed in gaining compensation for the terrible treatment that they have been subjected to.