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Basic approaches to reporting sexual harassment

Across California, workers in any industry might experience sexual harassment. A survey conducted by CareerBuilder collected responses from 809 full-time employees in the private sector and concluded that 12 percent of them had been sexually harassed at work. Reporting the behavior to their employers, however, proved to be the exception rather than the rule. Among victims, 72 percent of them stayed silent. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a victim has options for pursuing a remedy.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination, including harassment, at workplaces with 15 or more employees. A victim should check to see if an employer has a written policy and procedure for reporting harassment. People should follow their employer's procedures when at all possible. In general, victims should document their experiences in detail and list any people who might have witnesses the unwanted sexual advances or lewd comments. This report needs to be presented to the supervisor or someone higher up the chain of command if the supervisor is the harasser.

Federal law requires employers to investigate complaints and take steps to halt the harassment. Discipline against harassers should reflect the seriousness their actions. If someone does not get a response from an employer, the EEOC investigates complaints about harassment and discrimination.

Legal advice might also be appropriate, especially when a person fears losing a job or other acts of unlawful retaliation after reporting sexual harassment. Consulting with a lawyer may help a person complete the process of filing a formal complaint or building a lawsuit. A lawyer might interview witnesses, request the findings of an employer's investigation or collect texts and emails that reveal the harasser's behavior. This information may be able to support a lawsuit that holds the employer financially accountable for the hostile working environment.

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