The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that one in four women are sexually harassed at the workplace. Not all victims of sexual harassment report this misconduct. According to some other studies, the actual number of workplace sexual harassment victims is 85%. More and more cases of sexual harassment coming to light indicate that this kind of behavior is encouraged in a toxic work environment. A pattern of sexual harassment can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder in the victims. 

This makes it extremely important to detect, report and prevent sexual harassment. In order to detect this sexual misconduct, you need to know the signs of sexual harassment. To report this unacceptable behavior, you need to be aware of your rights and actions you can take. And, to prevent workplace sexual harassment, there should be sexual harassment policies in place and you also need to take sexual harassment training.    

How To Detect Sexual Harassment? 

When You Are The Victim

Following signs indicates that you are being sexually harassed:

  • Asking for sex, sexual favors or making a sexual advance. 
  • Asking for a date even when you have already declined.  
  • Making sexual remarks or comments such as referring to physical appearance and/or genitalia. 
  • Making remarks or comments about your sex. It includes offensive remarks about your sexual orientation or any other discriminatory remark. 
  • Touching you or himself/herself in sexually provocative ways. 
  • Sending sexually graphic pictures such as provocative photos and explicit personal photos. 

When Someone Else Is The Victim 

Due to the following reasons, some victims do not report sexual harassment: 

  • There is an element of shame and confusion associated with sexual harassment claims.
  • The victim worries about immediate repercussions.     
  • He/She fears future career repercussions. 
  • The victim is not aware of the signs of sexual harassment. 
  • The victim is not aware of sexual harassment laws and his/her rights. 
  • The victim thinks that he/she will not get support from colleagues.    

However, you can notice some changes in the behavior of a sexual harassment victim. You can look for the following signs if you suspect that one of your colleagues is being sexually harassed:

  • Sudden and frequent absences and tardiness
  • Reduced productivity 
  • Avoidance and anxiety, especially in the company of the harasser
  • Least or no interest in professional development opportunities
  • Increased alcohol or drug use 

How To Report Sexual Harassment And Take Action Against The Harasser?  

Following are the steps you can take to report this misconduct. 

  • Communicate 
  • Record 
  • Report internally 
  • Report externally 
  • Hire sexual harassment attorney

Communicate

If you feel that it is safe to address the issue directly, you can communicate with the harasser. Tell him/her that you do not appreciate his/her intimidating, inappropriate, abusive or hostile behavior and he/she must stop. 

Record 

Whether it is a single incident or a pattern, write down all the details and maintain a copy of these details at home. These details could include:

  • Name of the harasser
  • Date, time and place of harassment 
  • His/her inappropriate words and/or actions 
  • Name of the person who has witnessed the harassment 

Report Internally 

Follow the sexual harassment policies of the organization. In case there are no sexual harassment policies, report it to the HR department or a trusted supervisor. 

Report Externally 

You can report it to the local EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) office online or in person within 180 days. 

Hire a Sexual Harassment Attorney

You can also hire a sexual harassment attorney in San Francisco to take legal actions against the harasser. You can make use of the list of women’s legal aid organizations by the American Association of University to find a sexual harassment attorney.

You can also count on the Find-A-Lawyer database of the National Employment Lawyers Association to find a sexual harassment attorney in San Francisco.

How Can You Help The Victim? 

If one of your colleagues at the receiving end of sexual harassment wants to report, you can help by: 

  • Validating his/her experience     
  • Providing resources or information for reporting sexual harassment 
  • Reporting any incidence of sexual harassment you have witnessed 

How To Prevent Workplace Sexual Harassment?  

An employer can take the following steps to build a better workplace:  

  • Creating Sexual Harassment Policies 
  • Defining Complaint/Investigation Procedure 
  • Fostering a No-tolerance Workplace
  • Sexual Harassment Training 

Sexual Harassment Policies 

The employer must draft a sexual harassment policy to prevent and deal with cases of sexual harassment. The human resource department must make sure that the policies are implemented. This policy should clearly define what kind of behavior is considered sexual harassment. The policy should also define the rights of the victim. 

Complaint/Investigation Procedures 

The employer must define a procedure the victim can follow to report sexual harassment. Similarly, there should be a well-defined procedure to investigate the claim internally. 

Foster a no-tolerance workplace

There should be a zero-tolerance policy against any kind of sexual misconduct. From top to bottom, no one should be able to walk away.     

Sexual Harassment Training 

Sexual harassment training for employees and managers is beneficial for the organization. 

  • Sexual harassment training helps in building a safe workplace. 
  • This training makes everyone aware of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.   
  • It sends a clear message from the top. 
  • Training empowers bystanders. 
  • It encourages reporting.     

There are federal and state laws in place to protect the victim and punish the harasser. If you want to take legal action, contact a knowledgeable sexual harassment attorney in San Francisco.