Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – Is this 2017?
10/26/2017 No Comments
The continuing reports from Hollywood about ongoing sexual harassment and sexual assault are shocking and infuriating. This is 2017 and it seems all the workplace policies and training that we been participating in for years hasn’t gotten us very far. Especially for those in positions of authority within the workplace.
I represent women and men who were victims of sexual harassment and assault. I also represent employers. No one should be sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. NO ONE. We go to work, school or operate our businesses for many different reasons. Being subjected to sexual harassment or sexual assault should never be part of any workplace. If you’re reading this, you might be looking for guidance. So let me give you some suggestions.
This IS 2017! In 2017, things are substantially different for people who have been sexually harassed and sexually assaulted than ten (10) and especially twenty (20) years ago. There are local resources that can assist you in dealing with sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace. My experience in working with some of these organizations is that they are well trained and importantly confidential.
First, you should consider reaching out to a therapist or mental health professional. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are traumatic events. It is difficult for anyone to deal with and sort this out by themselves. You should try talking to someone else, who has a legal duty to keep what you say confidential. A therapist can help you navigate through the fog of what happened and help chart a course with you for the future.
Second, you may also be wondering if you should report what happened to you to the police. In most large and medium sized cities and towns, the police and sheriffs have been well trained and have well defined procedures to assist victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. You only need to call the police or sheriff’s department and ask for the group that handles sexual harassment and assault. Those individuals are trained to listen and help. The days of accusing the victim or questioning a victim’s credibility are long gone. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, call the police or sheriff’s department and report what happened.
But let’s focus on the workplace. You need to support your family and pay bills, like the rest of us. What can you do to stop what’s happening to you? There are generally three (3) options. First, report it to Human Resources. If your employer doesn’t have a Human Resources division, then report it to the person immediately higher up in management than the person who harassed or assaulted you. Make sure your complaint is in writing and keep a copy for yourself. Include in your complaint what you want to see as an outcome. The employer should conduct an investigation, including interviewing witnesses you identify, reach a recommendation and tell you in generic terms what the outcome was.
The second option, if the employer does nothing or if the person harassing you is the boss, then contact your city’s or state’s employment discrimination agency. Here in Hawaii, it’s the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission (HCRC). There is form that you need to complete. My experience with the investigators with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission has generally been good. The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission’s website, including their forms is: http://labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc/
The third option is to contact the EEOC. This is our federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They enforce federal laws that prohibit sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination in the workplace. My experience with the investigators at the EEOC has been positive. Here is a link to their website, which also has good information. https://www.eeoc.gov/
This is 2017 and sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace should not happen. There is no excuse. It doesn’t matter who the person harassing you is, what position that person has with the company, how long they’ve been there or who they know. Your hard work and career should not be destroyed because someone in a position of authority thinks they can sexually harass or assault you. In 2017, that kind of thinking, that kind of action and that kind of workplace environment is wrong, unlawful and harassers need to be held accountable.
But if this has happened to you, reach out to someone and tell them what is happening. If you can’t find a therapist, see a counselor in school, or clergy at your church. They can also counsel and guide you. What I want you to take away from this post, is that you are not alone and resources are there to help you through this terrible event.
There are many resources out there to help you. You only have to take our outstretched hand.
Coming soon: Employers, an ounce of prevention is worth . . . thousands of dollars paying a lawyer.
Ted H. S. Hong, Attorney at Law.
The comments and opinions herein are not intended to be legal advice or create any lawyer/client relationship. The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. You should contact an attorney in your area if you have any questions or concerns about the contents of this post.