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How to respond to sexual harassment

Your workplace should be a safe environment in all respects. This includes your right to be free of any type of sexual harassment, including requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, sexual comments and physical touching.

Sadly, harassers are present in many workplaces across the country. This behavior is not only immoral and unprofessional, but it is also illegal. Unfortunately, employees and leadership tolerate it in many places. How can you respond to unwelcome sexual behavior? Here are some suggestions for what to do when you are a target of sexual harassment at your job.

Say "no"

It may be intimidating, but you must let the harasser know that the behavior is unwanted. Refuse any advances or requests. A straightforward refusal may be enough to stop this person from continuing to bother you. If this does not stop the abuser, you may need to do more. 

Get familiar with workplace rules and regulations

Even if harassment makes you feel powerless, you can change the power dynamic. Study up on the laws and regulations that protect you. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that applies to this situation. There is also the Missouri Human Rights Act. Your employer may also have a sexual harassment policy. Familiarize yourself with your privileges and rights and the limitations and constraints of the harasser. 

Gather documents

Documentation will help you exert your rights and resolve the situation. Keep a journal to write down each instance of harassment you experience, including the date, time and location. Collect any notes, messages or images you receive from the harasser. Document any witnesses so you can have allies to attest to the harassment. Gathering confirmation from others will help you express your concerns.

Take legal action

If your employer does not resolve the situation, you may need to take direct legal action. This may be the only way to stop the harasser once and for all.

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