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Most people are groomed to think inappropriate jokes and touching are harmless. It’s a part of the corporate environment to intimidate those at the bottom of the totem pole. Majority of people are advised to push through it as they climb the social ladder. This advice is not only harmful to the person experiencing the harassment, but it allows this behavior to continue.

Knowing what to do when you’re thrown in a sexual harassment situation can be difficult to maneuver. It may seem like there aren’t many options. You may even think they don’t realize how they’re making you feel and justify their actions through that point of view. Regardless of the circumstances, no one should go to work knowing their boss will degrade them every day.

Is what I’m experiencing sexual harassment?

It’s understated that sexual harassment can happen to anyone. It’s not about sexual prowls. It’s about power and intimidation. Sexual harassment can take many forms. Whether it’s bullying men for being too feminine or using gender-based slurs, it is sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment occurs when any vulgar and offensive “jokes” are in the workplace. It’s the feeling of dishonor towards you and your reputation at work surrounding your sexual orientation, your body and even your voice.

Is sexual harassment illegal?

Under Federal Law, it is illegal to perform sexual harassment. It’s considered sex discrimination. This law, however, only covers employers who have 15 or more employees, but many states battle that issue by covering smaller companies.

It’s also illegal to be punished by your employer for reporting a sexual harassment claim. This punishment could be a demotion, receiving a pay cut, a reduction of hours or getting fired. Furthermore, punishments could be more understated than those examples. If you are being uninvited to meetings and left out of communication at work because of your report, it’s a sign that your employer is retaliating against you.

What should I do?

The first action that should be taken is to talk to someone within your company. Every sexual harassment claim should be reported to a Human Resources representative, a boss or a trusted person at your company. You can also get together with other coworkers to raise concerns about your shared situations. This is legally protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

If they brush aside your report, you can bring your claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or another government agency. They can help you navigate this dispute within 180 to 300 days from the harassment.

If neither of these options work, you can sue your employer. This is only an option when you have run out of options. Most of the time, a sexual harassment dispute can be resolved before this, but you can collaborate with a lawyer to get justice in your workplace.

A workplace should be a constructive environment, but when sexual harassment occurs, work becomes the last thing on your mind. Sexual harassment is a display of power and intimidation. It’s simply not fair to you or anyone else within your company. It should be the goal of every workplace to create a safe environment for their employees and knowing about sexual harassment and what you can do to prevent it is the first step.