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What Do I Do if My Coworker Is Sexually Harassing Me?

Manager putting his hand on the shoulder of his secretary

In California, you have the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. State law prohibits employers from committing acts of sexual harassment and obliges employers to take appropriate action if they learn of harassing conduct. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace by a supervisor or coworker, you have the right to speak up and defend yourself. Read on below for tips on how to respond to workplace sexual harassment, and if you’ve been the target of harassment or discrimination, call an experienced Riverside sexual harassment attorney for advice and assistance.

Steps to Take After Workplace Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of unlawful workplace discrimination. It cannot and should not be tolerated. If you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment by a coworker, there are a few steps that you can, and should, take to remedy the situation:

Tell the offending coworker. If you feel safe and comfortable, and believe that the coworker might simply not realize their actions are unwelcome, then you might be able to quickly resolve the situation by simply explaining that you don’t appreciate their conduct: “I find that offensive, please stop” or “That type of joke/physical touch/communication makes me uncomfortable, please do not continue doing it.” This only applies if you feel safe approaching them. If you feel unsafe, or if they continue their behavior even after you’ve spoken up, you can and should take further steps.

Keep records of the conduct. At some point, you may need to prove that the harassment occurred. Keep copies of offensive emails, texts, or other communications. Take pictures of offensive comics or other items. Write down your recollection of offensive statements, physical touches, or other harassing conduct as soon as you can after the interaction. These records will bolster your claims.

Report the incident internally. If you are the target of conduct that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, let your employer know. Tell a manager or supervisor, or report the conduct to HR. Make your report in writing–via text, email, or form complaint–to ensure that there is a record of your complaint. The company should have a process for complaints established. Many companies have an anonymous tip line if you are uncomfortable speaking up under your own name.

Get a lawyer. If your employer does not take appropriate steps to remedy the situation, such as by reprimanding, firing, or transferring the offending coworker, then it’s time to get a lawyer. You may need to take steps outside of the organization to resolve the issue, including by filing a complaint with a government agency or taking your case to court. Talk to your workplace harassment and discrimination attorney to review and pursue your best options.

Employer Obligations

Your employer is required to respond to your allegations and take appropriate remedial action. If your employer fails to conduct an investigation and/or reprimand the offending employee, you could have a claim for harassment and discrimination. Employers are directly liable when sexual harassment is perpetrated by a supervisor, but they are also liable when they either foster a culture where sexual harassment is condoned or otherwise knowingly permit sexual harassment to continue. Your employer has a responsibility to keep you safe from harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

If your employer takes any action against you in response to your complaint, such as transferring you, demoting you, or terminating you, then you have a strong case for retaliation and/or wrongful termination. Talk to an experienced workplace sexual harassment attorney to discuss your rights and your options.

You Have the Right to Feel Safe and Secure at Work. Our Sexual Harassment Attorneys Can Help.

If you’ve experienced workplace sexual harassment in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a compassionate, dedicated California labor and employment attorney. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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