Sexual Harassment Personal Injury Questions

What actually constitutes sexual harassment?

In legal terms, sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexually harassing behavior can range from repeated offensive or belittling jokes to outright sexual assault.

I'm being sexually harassed at work. What should I do?

Tell the harasser to stop. Surprisingly often - some experts say up to 90% of the time - this works. When confronted directly, harassment is especially likely to end if it is at a fairly low level (i.e., off-color jokes, minor comments about your appearance or repeated requests for dates after you have said no). Clearly stating that you want the offensive behavior to stop is a crucial first step if you later choose to take more formal action against the harasser. Give serious thoughts to documenting what's going on by keeping a journal. Your case will be stronger if you can later prove that the harassment continued after you confronted the harasser.

What if the harassment does not stop even after I have confronted the harasser?

If the harasser has ignored your requests to stop or if you are uncomfortable talking to the harasser face-to-face, write a succinct letter demanding an end to the behavior and be sure to save a copy. If that does not end the harassment, escalate your complaint within the company. Check your company's employee handbook or personnel policies, or ask someone in the human resources department how to file a complaint.

Although you may be tempted to skip this step, don't give in to temptation. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that if an employee fails to use the company's internal complaint procedure to make the company aware of (and give the employer a chance to correct) the problem, one cannot later hold the company liable in a lawsuit for his or her harassment. If your company does not have a formal complaint procedure, you should still put the company on notice by telling your superior or sending a letter to a company executive.

For more information, visit our NH practice area-specific page for harassment.