Women in all fields have experienced sexual harassment as well as sexual assault by the famous and the merely inconspicuous. Too often the powers that be in the workplace turn a blind eye or protect the harasser. Worse yet, the harassment is often accompanied by bullying and intimidation.
What should you do if you find yourself in a situation where your boss or supervisor is sexually harassing you? First you should know that it’s illegal to harass someone because of gender, sexual orientation or identity, disability, ethnicity, religion, race, color, among other characteristics. Harassment exists when unwelcome conduct becomes a condition of employment or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile or abusive work environment. Unwelcome and unwarranted criticism, disparaging statements, inappropriate statements or touching - all these things can contribute to a hostile environment. Even if your boss doesn’t specifically mention your status as a woman, bullying and intimidating behavior can be part of the harassment. Courts look to all the circumstances to decide whether the law is violated.
Here are some practical tips for dealing with harassing bosses:
Don’t go it alone: Dealing with the harasser by yourself can be extremely demoralizing. It’s your right to be free of harassment in the workplace. Consider sharing what is happening with a trusted friend, advisor, or counselor.
Seek Legal Help: There are many very good employment law attorneys who can explain your rights and guide you. If you are in a difficult situation, you should consider visiting a lawyer before you take any steps to complain about it internally.
Complain: A potential defense to an employee harassment complaint is that the employee didn’t complain before filing a lawsuit. Courts have consistently have held that employers are entitled to know about the problem so that they can put a stop to the harassment and discipline the harasser. Be sure to learn the exact procedures for complaining in the company’s employee handbook and follow the procedures.
Take Notes: If you wind up having to go to court it will be important for your lawyer to detail the harasser(s) bad acts as well as what management did or didn’t do about it.
The good news is that we do have strong and effective laws that protect against discrimination and harassment. However, employment law attorneys, such as myself, cannot uphold the law ourselves. We need women who have the will and courage to say, “MeToo,” stand up for their rights, and work with us to enforce our laws and ensure that justice will prevail.
With over thirty years’ experience as an attorney, David Rostan strives to resolve your workplace problems in an efficient manner which meets your individual needs. He is licensed in New Jersey and New York and can be reached at 973 520 8301 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His web site is www.davidrostanlaw.com