Sexual harassment often happens when a person least expects it. Unfortunately, most people don’t really think of most racey comments as being harassment either, which helps blur the lines. But, it’s a serious issue, and one that needs to be addressed in every company. Here’s how to identify it, prevent it or stop it in its tracks.
Know The Law, Not Just Your Handbook
Your employee handbook might not be completely in-sync with the law. Believe it or not, workplace handbooks may not cover harassment very well, or at all. So, don’t automatically assume that your employee handbook covers everything. In many cases, they do not. And, even when they do mention it, don’t assume it follows the letter and spirit of the law. The handbook may or may not have been written by a legal specialist in that area.
Speak Up, and Type It Out
If someone made you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to speak up about it. Talk directly to the employee and tell him or her that the advance is unwelcomed. It might be awkward, but there’s a possibility that he or she didn’t realize that you feel uncomfortable with the encounter.
It could all be a huge misunderstanding.
For example, if someone stands just a little too close, they might believe they’re being friendly. You might not feel comfortable with such a close distance. Everyone has their own definition of “comfort zone” and “personal space.”
Letting that person know explicitly, in a civil manner, will clear up any confusion.
Look Beyond Your Boss
Don’t automatically assume that you can rely on your boss for help either. Sexual harassment is still commonplace and the victims often resort to specialists claim firms like Slater and Gordon to seek guidance on making such claims. A young, attractive, secretary or assistant might be harassed by her boss, for example. Or, a young male intern might be harassed by his boss, or another manager.
If management is engaged in inappropriate behaviour, it’s is not often likely that going to your boss about the issue will get that issue resolved. You may need to seek professional legal help.
Employers Often Remain Impartial
When the employer (management) isn’t the one harassing you, know that your employer isn’t automatically on your side. Employers must remain impartial during an investigation.
Know What To Expect
The outcome of a claim might not be what you expect. For example, if an accused co-worker is put before a board for a hearing on the matter, but the evidence presented is inconclusive, he or she might continue to work alongside you.
You may still have to work with that person – creating an awkward situation for both of you.
Often times, you will be asked what you would like the outcome to be. You could opt for a transfer to a new department. Or, you might feel totally uncomfortable working there and might find yourself out of a job.
That could put a financial strain on you and your family. At the same time, you shouldn’t work at a company where you feel threatened.
Just be prepared to make tough decisions. It may come down to finding a new job.