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What you should do about sexual harassment on the job

Regardless of your position or industry, you must always realize you could be the victim of sexual harassment.

This doesn't mean you should sit around and worry about this unnecessarily. However, if you do find yourself being victimized, it's critical that you know which steps to take to protect yourself.

Here is a basic outline of the actions to take if you've been the victim of sexual harassment:

  • Speak up. No one has to tolerate abuse and hope that the abuser stops on his or her own. If you feel threatened, tell the person to stop in a firm manner. This is often more than enough to make the other individual back down. You should never wait to speak up, as the sooner you do so, the better chance you have of quickly stopping this behavior.
  • Review your employee handbook. Almost every employee handbook touches on sexual harassment. Read through this portion of the handbook, paying close attention to the procedure you should follow as a victim. For example, you may find that you're required to submit a written report about the behavior to the HR department.
  • Talk to your immediate supervisor: If this is the person doing the harassing, you'll need to find someone to whom to report the problem. If it's not, talk with your immediate supervisor about what happened and how to best deal with the situation. Also, make it clear to this person that you'll be following up with him or her on the action they take.

Along with the above, you should learn more about your legal rights. It's not always necessary to take legal action, but you may find that you have no choice.

For example, if you file a report with your company and lose your job as a result, you may be able to take action for wrongful termination. This allows you to seek remedies like back pay, reinstatement, damages for emotional distress and a requirement for the company to implement a sexual harassment training program.

It may be hard to imagine being the victim of sexual harassment at your company, but you never know if this could happen to you. If it does, taking immediate action is a must.

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