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What should you do if you are sexually harassed at work?

Last week, we talked about sexual harassment prevention and how companies that provide this training are getting far more requests than ever before. This coincides with the expanding national discussion about sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace, and it is important to see this matter to cause some genuine movement towards progress.

To expand on this discussion, we want to talk about practical steps that any worker could take if they are sexually harassed in their workplace. So what should you do in such an unfortunate situation?

The first thing you should do is let the offending party know. In many cases, the offender doesn't know his or her conduct is offensive. Speaking up can end the problem right then and there, so take action if you are a victim.

Now, if this doesn't work and the hostile and harassing behavior continues, then you should follow the policy set out by your company. Follow the rules, file a report, and take note of any time limits and important dates or moments that are involved in the process. During the process, you should also make note of any continuing harassing behavior from the offender (or offenders).

If the formal process set out by your company doesn't lead to change or action, then a formal charge presented to the appropriate government agency is necessary. This usually means that your case will go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will then try to resolve the matter. If it can't, then it will issue a "right to sue" letter, leading to your last option: a civil lawsuit alleging sexual harassment against the offending party, and possibly the company too.

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