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Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment? Don’t Quit Your Job!

Being harassed on the job is one of the worst things that can happen as an employee. When that harassment is sexual in nature, it can feel even worse. Your first instinct might be to give your notice and run in the other direction – completely understandable because nobody wants to feel victimized when they are trying to do their job.

However, as the victim of on-the-job sexual harassment, quitting might be one of the worst things for you to do.

The first and most obvious reason you shouldn’t quit if you’re sexually harassed is you avoid a secondary problem. As long as you’re working, you’ll be receiving a regular paycheck and keep whatever benefits your employer has provided you. As a victim of proven harassment, you’ll be entitled to compensation, but chances are it won’t be as immediate as the paycheck you depend on.

As long as it’s safe to do so, continue to show up to work and follow whatever protocol your employer has in place to deal with sexual harassment.

Follow the Sexual Harassment Protocol Put in Place by Your Employer

In addition to ensuring you’ll continue to receive a paycheck and benefits, staying on at your job also makes it possible to pursue your sexual harassment complaint through the proper channels.

According to the Supreme Court, an employee must report harassment according to whatever policy his or her employer has in place and allow the employer to fix the problem. Your next step – filing a lawsuit – won’t come until after your employer fails to fix the problem or retaliates against you for reporting the abuse. The law says you must give your employer a chance to fix the problem.

Quitting your job without going through the proper channels makes it more difficult to file a lawsuit for lost wages because you need to prove your work environment was so bad that no reasonable person could have remained in the position. Long-term, it will be easier to make your case if you remain on the job.

Steps to Follow If You are Sexually Harassed

So what is the best approach if you’re a victim of sexual harassment?

First and foremost, remove yourself from the situation. If you feel the situation is dire and you are physically at risk, it’s within your right to contact law enforcement. Most sexual harassment in the workplace is more subtle and presents no immediate or severe physical threat, but your first priority is protecting your immediate safety.

Assuming the harassment was not physically violent, find out what your employer’s sexual harassment policy is either by reading your handbook or asking human resources.

In most businesses, the first step is to report the incident. Make sure you do so in writing, in addition to whatever you’re told to do by your employer. If the only recommendation is to speak to someone or call someone, do that as well as reporting the harassment in writing, so you’ve started a paper trail regarding the incident.

In addition to filing the report in writing – make sure you keep a copy of your report for your own records – make a written record of everything that happens after the incident. Write down the date(s) of the harassment and any witnesses who heard or saw what happened. If you told a co-worker about the incident, make a note of that too. Make sure you keep this information at home so your employer has no access to it.

Don’t Wait to Report Sexual Harassment

Keep in mind you have a limited amount of time to act. You’ll need to report the harassment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as soon as possible, and if you need to file a lawsuit, do so within the statute of limitations. Waiting to report an incident of sexual harassment makes the situation worse and hurts your case in the long run.

For more information about the statute of limitations in New York regarding sexual harassment claims check out this pamphlet from State Attorney General’s Office.

Every employee has a right to a safe and harassment-free workplace. If you’re been sexually harassed or you have questions about a specific incident you believe might be harassment, we can help. To schedule a consultation, contact the New York Employment Lawyers at Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C..


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