Five Things to Do if You are Being Sexually Harassed at Work

As much as we wish it weren’t the case, sexual harassment in the workplace is still a surprisingly common and disturbing experience. Fortunately, there are laws and protections in place to help ensure those who are sexually harassed are able to demand a safe and fair workplace. If the victim is not granted relief, the harasser and/or the employer can be sued in a court of law.

Sexual harassment can include a wide variety of different things including harassing comments, persistent sexual advances, inappropriate touching, and more. It can also include actions like having managers only invite the men to a team building event, or only giving promotions to females. If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, make sure you do the following five things to protect yourself and your legal rights.

Protect Yourself

The first, and most important thing to do is make sure that you are safe. If you are being physically threatened or touched in dangerous way, remove yourself from the situation. All the other tips in this post are secondary to this one. Protecting yourself could mean going immediately to your boss, calling the police, or just leaving work and not coming back until you are safe.

Learn Your Corporate Policies

Virtually all companies today have an official policy on sexual harassment. In addition to forbidding inappropriate actions, the policy will also tell you how you should handle reporting it, and what obligations you have to fulfill. As soon as possible, become familiar with these policies so that you can be sure you are following them to the T.

Don’t Quit Your Job

Unless it is unsafe to go to work, you should not quit your job. The courts have ruled in the past that if someone quits their job, they give up certain rights to a sexual harassment lawsuit. While you should never put yourself in danger, it is generally a good idea to remain working for the employer in whatever capacity is possible if you want to successfully bring a claim.

Document Everything in Writing

Make sure you write everything down, and keep proof of all meetings and comments. Each time you are sexually harassed, write it down with the dates and times. Any meetings you have with your manager, human resources, or anyone else about the harassment should also be documented in writing. This documentation will be needed should your case have to go to court.

Report Every Instance

If you have reported to your manager that a co-worker is making inappropriate comments to you, for example, the employer is obligated to address it right away. If it happens again, you need to file another report with your manager or HR. Every instance of harassment should be reported to your manager or HR depending on your company’s policies.

Talk to an Attorney

If your concerns are not addressed by your employer right away, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney about what options are available. Crumiller P.C. fights for each of our clients, and when it comes to sexual harassment cases, we work in conjunction with C.A. Goldberg, PLLC to ensure your interests are properly represented throughout any case. Contact us to schedule a consultation and get the help you need to fight back against this egregious form of discrimination in the workplace.


  1. Important: BE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES EXISTS TO PROTECT THE INTEREST OF THE COMPANY–NOT, NOT, **NOT** TO PROTECT YOU! The maxim “PROTECT YOURSELF” has significance well beyond removing yourself from a situation where you are physically vulnerable.

    I and other women experienced harassment at a first-class investment bank. Because of canny strategy (more below), I managed to receive a handsome pay-off before exit, while other women were summarily dispatched for spurious infractions followed by hostile defamatory whispers by the firm sullying their reputations.

    The bankers and their H.R. assistants worked hard to undermine the credibility of women who complained which, in our patriarchal society, has always been the strategy of men accused of sexual malfeasance. Note, even as recently as the 19th century in America (and probably into the 20th) women who had been raped or abused in any fashion were labeled “fallen” and were expected to disappear (e.g., commit suicide) to preserve the honor so-called of the male perpetrator, and the purity of the community (read, for instance, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter”). To this day, the moral credibility of an American woman is inevitably questioned when she claims to have been sexually transgressed in any fashion. Worse, in orthodox Muslim countries, women who have been violated are still expected to destroy themselves and, worst, written laws exist (e.g., Saudi Arabia) permitting family members to murder a woman who does not comply, to preserve family honor (so-called). Read the hopeful story of Mukhtar Mai (a/k/a Mukhtar Bibi) of Pakistan.

    Now, I succeeded in this fraught culture of ours by keeping copious, detailed notes of every instance of harassment. A key help for me was the support of friends outside the firm, to maintain my sense of self, and to reduce the stress of working in a hostile environment. I did NOT contact H.R. until the harassment had escalated into obvious, irrefutable acts of hostility. By the time I contacted H.R., I had a folder full of documentation.

    The H.R. department representatives made every effort to diminish the significance of the attacks, insist my claims were trivial, and generally to intimidate me. Yes, the firm DID have a written policy against sexual harassment! NOW, PAY ATTENTION: H.R. asked me to hand over my folder of documentation. MY ANSWER? NO. Absolutely NO! From a legal standpoint, the firm wanted to review my documentation to prepare to refute my claims in detail. NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! At this point, I hired a lawyer. Ultimately, the firm was forced to grant me a handsome severance agreement to avoid further entanglement, and to memorialize their legal obligations to me in writing.

    PROTECT YOURSELF, because regardless how any firm portrays its policies on paper, it exists for its own profit, not to protect you.

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