If you have been sexually harassed at work and are at the point where you are asking yourself the question posed in this headline, then getting answers as soon as possible is a top priority.
Essentially, you will need to first report the misconduct to an appropriate person at work. If that doesn't seem effective or it makes your situation worse, you can file a formal complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If no resolution is reached, your case can go to litigation.
This means you don't just jump from experiencing sexual harassment to the courtroom.
Misconduct can often be cleared up once you report the behavior to the appropriate person at your job, which is your first step. This might be someone in Human Resources or someone else, and this person should be identified in materials like an employee handbook. If you're not sure, you can notify your boss or your boss's boss.
Again, many cases can be resolved as this stage. Action is taken by the employer and the harassment stops. If it doesn't however, you still have options.
Filing a charge with the EEOC (or, in some cases, another agency) will be the next step. Once you file your report, the agency will assess your case and the jurisdiction. From there, the EEOC can work to resolve the situation with your employer.
If that is not effective, you can file a civil lawsuit.
As you can see, claims of sexual harassment do not immediately escalate from notifying your employer to a lawsuit. There will be several opportunities to resolve the situation prior to litigation.
However, you also need to note that there are specific steps you must take to file your claim properly. Each of these steps comes with deadlines and other requirements of which you need to be aware.
This can all sound very overwhelming, especially when you are already struggling with the emotional trauma and pain of being mistreated on the job. Thankfully, you don't have to do anything by yourself: You can consult an attorney who can advise you of what needs to be done and when so that you can take action to protect yourself, your job and your rights.