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How can victims of workplace sexual harassment address the issue?

Being sexually harassed at work can make a person feel scared, angry, humiliated and ashamed. Minnesota workers in such a situation may want to address the issue, but may not know where to start. They may even be wrongfully told that they have no options with regard to ending the harassment. However, that is not true. The following are some steps that victims of sexual harassment in the workplace can take to address the issue and protect their rights.

First of all, workers should not be afraid to speak up. If a worker believes they were sexually harassed, they should let the instigator of the harassment know that their actions offended them. It is possible that the instigator of the harassment was not aware that they were being offensive, and once it is brought to their attention, they will stop. Even if the situation is not resolved by speaking up, at least the instigator is now aware that they did something offensive.

If talking to the instigator doesn't' help, victims of sexual harassment in the workplace should determine whether their employer has internal procedures for handling such situations. Sexual harassment victims should follow each and every part of these procedures. Also, keep a log of the incidents of harassment, including when the incident happened, what the incident was and who was involved.

If, despite following internal procedures, the issue isn't resolved, the next step is to file a charge either with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a similar state agency. The agency will perform an investigation of the incident and will try to negotiate a resolution with the victim's employer.

If the EEOC cannot reach a resolution with the victim's employer and determine's that the victim's claim is valid, the victim may pursue litigation against their employer. Some remedies that may be sought through litigation include reinstatement, back pay, damages for emotional distress, attorney's fees, lost fringe benefits and a requirement that the employer institute training and policies in the workplace about sexual harassment.

These steps may help end harassment in the workplace, but for victims of harassment some of these steps may be easier said than done. Therefore, it can help to have the assistance of an employment law attorney, who can assist the victim throughout the process.

Source: FindLaw, "Sexual Harassment: Actions You Can Take," Accessed Jan. 8, 2017

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