“If all the women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” This post was retweeted on Alyssa Milano’s Twitter feed encouraging those who have been a victim of harassment or assault to help create a unified voice to draw attention to this silent crisis that is affecting America. The unfortunate truth is that many women have been taught that these things are private, embarrassing, and sometimes even too shameful to acknowledge.

But the #MeToo movement is more than camaraderie and finding a voice, it is also about exposing the violations of women’s rights in the workplace.

What is sexual harassment in the workplace?

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission defines workplace sexual harassment as any kind of conduct or advances of a sexual nature that either impede with the worker’s ability to perform their job or creates an environment that can be considered hostile, offensive or intimidating. Sexual harassment is also considered a form of sexual discrimination in the workplace under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII.

Two types of sexual harassment

Workplace sexual harassment can take many forms, but often can be put into one of two categories; quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment.

Quid pro quo harassment

In a quid pro quo harassment claim, a person who has authority in the company such as a manager or supervisor will require the employee to tolerate sexual harassment in order to remain employed or to gain such benefits as promotions, raises, or special treatment. This form of harassment can take place over a number of incidents or occur in one isolated incident.

Hostile environment harassment

A claim for a hostile work environment would involve an environment that becomes offensive or abusive through unwelcomed sexually based conduct. Such factors they will look for in a case of a hostile work environment include:

  • The frequency
  • If the conduct is hostile or offensive
  • The authority of the harasser
  • If the harassment had more than one perpetrator
  • If other people were targeted
  • Would a reasonable person agree with you?

When sexual harassment occurs, it can be difficult to deal with. You might be unsure what the steps are to rectify the situation or may be afraid that reporting the problem may cause it to become worse. Unfortunately, unreported sexual harassment will usually continue unless it is resolved and others may begin to suffer harassment as well if the harasser is allowed to continue without repercussions. When harassment occurs in the workplace, it is best to follow a few steps to help address the problem and prepare you in the event you need to file a legal claim.

Inform the harasser that the actions are offensive and unwanted

This can be the most difficult for those who suffer harassment, but it is important for you to establish that the actions or behavior are inappropriate. Sometimes this can stop the problem once the harasser is made aware that their actions are making someone uncomfortable.

Inform your human resources or supervisor

If the harassment does not stop after informing the harasser, you will want to follow your company’s reporting procedure and file a report. If you end up filing a claim later, this is an important step to show that you followed company procedure for the problem to be resolved.

Keep a record of everything

The saying goes “hope for the best but prepares for the worst.” Writing down all of the incidents as well as having copies of your filed grievance will help you prove that you followed the procedure to get your issue resolved in the event you end up in a court claim. 

Rely on legal help

Do more than post #MeToo. Take real legal action against your employer who is permitting it.