The Harvey Weinstein allegations are shedding new light on sexual harassment, but many women still don't know what to do if they experience problems in the workplace.
“Many employers have put in place solid harassment reporting policies, but a policy is only valuable if it actually is followed,” says Marty Heller, an attorney at national labor and employment firm Fisher Phillips. "When an employer receives a complaint of discrimination or harassment, they need to spend the time to do a thorough investigation and speak to the parties involved. Sometimes a simple misunderstanding caused the issue. Other times, very uncomfortable and inappropriate things have occurred, and responsive action, including up to termination, is warranted.”
Heller outlines these steps to take if you’ve been harassed:
- Report it. Never wait to report you are uncomfortable until you think it may violate the law – report improper touching or comments when they occur so your employer can properly review the allegations. Report the situation to management, and be prepared to give accurate details about what happened and participate in an investigation.
- Follow up. If reporting harassment directly to your supervisor does not resolve the issue, consult your employee handbook and report higher up the chain of command. Don’t ignore the issue if you don’t get the response you want the first time.
- Be honest. Many times employers are looking to hear from the individual who reports harassment what they are looking to happen. Don’t be afraid to ask for a desired resolution.
- Be fair. Not everything that happens in the workplace that is uncomfortable is illegal. Having said that, employers typically have policies that protect against much broader actions than simply what may be illegal. Give your employer time to complete an investigation and take corrective action.
- Move forward. Once an investigation has been completed, if corrective action has been taken, give the resolution an opportunity to succeed.