What To Do If You Have Been Sexually Harassed At Work
When a woman has been victimized by sexual harassment in the workplace, it is extremely difficult to face the reality of it all. Reporting it to the proper person or department of the company can be like reliving the nightmare. The emotional trauma of sexual harassment is so debilitating that statistics show that over half of the women who are sexually harassed at work do not report it.
Many companies have an employee handbook that lays out the procedure for sexual harassment victims to follow. Often the sexual harassment is supposed to first be reported to one’s supervisor, an alert line or to Human Resources. Under California law, the employer must immediately conduct an investigation and take corrective action to prevent the harassment from reoccurring. However, in reality what often happens is that once a woman reports sexual harassment in the workplace, the company does its very best to protect the interests of the company, instead of the interests of the woman who was sexually harassed.
As a victim of sexual harassment at work you can protect yourself and your best interests. Many people will tell you to first see a lawyer. However, if you are emotionally distressed as a result of being sexually harassed at work, one of the most important things you can do is to first see your doctor, a psychologist or a therapist and report it to him or her.
That person will document what you tell him or her. That person will also prescribe the best treatment for you, whether it be medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. If necessary, they will take you off of work so you will not have to face the person who sexually harassed you and who might do it again.
After you have reported the sexual harassment to your doctor, psychologist or therapist, then report it to your employer, in writing, and keep a copy of it. At that point, you may want to get an attorney involved to protect your legal interests.
Most women are under the misconception that in order to have a legal case for sexual harassment in the workplace it must first be reported to the company. That is a myth. That is what your employer wants you to think so that they can avoid liability.
If you have been sexually harassed at work by someone at a supervisor level or above, your employer has what is called strict liability. Strict liability is a legal term for automatic responsibility. If you have been sexually harassed at work by a co-worker (non-supervisor or non-manager), your employer must first be notified of the sexual harassment and your employer must take all reasonable steps to prevent it from happening again. If it happens again, then your employer is liable for the sexual harassment of your co-worker if it occurs again after you reported it to the company.
Your doctor, psychologist or therapist is probably your best ally in helping you deal with being sexually harassed at work, both emotionally and in terms of your safety. But that person must know that you have been sexually harassed in order to be able to help you.
You may be surprised that an attorney is of the opinion that you not see an attorney first if you have been sexually harassed at work. However, your emotional well-being and safety on the job are the most important thing, and your doctor, psychologist or therapist is most likely the professional who can best help you in both regards.
By: Arthur Navarette, Esq.