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Fighting back against sexual harassment in the workplace

In recent weeks, the ousting of Fox News' founder and CEO, Roger Ailes, has shined a spotlight on the important issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. While illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a 2015 survey shows that one in three women reported being sexually harassed at work and, in nearly 40 percent of these cases, the accused harasser was a supervisor or manager.

Sadly, this same survey revealed that the vast majority, or 70 percent, of women who experienced sexual harassment at work, chose to remain quiet. While every woman and man who has been the target of an unwanted sexual advance, proposition or assault by a boss, co-worker or client likely has her or his own reasons for not reporting the offenses, lack of proof and fear of retaliation are often major factors.

As these statistics prove, sexual harassment is unfortunately still pervasive in many workplaces throughout the United States. This likely won't change anytime soon unless the women and men who are the targets of such harassment come forward.

Documenting acts of sexual harassment is crucial to building your case. Depending on the nature of the harassment and the position the offender holds, you may be able to file a sexual harassment quid pro quo or hostile environment claim.

Here are four things you should do if you are being sexually harassed at work:

  1. Document everything - Did your manager offer you a promotion in exchange for a sexual favor? Are co-workers making offensive comments about your sexuality? Is a client making sexual advances? Are you being treated differently because of your gender? When documenting each and every offense, it's important to include details, including the date and time and to keep your notes in a safe place. A work computer or server, for example, may not be the best place.
  2. Gather hard evidence - If your manager, co-worker or client sends offensive or sexually suggestive emails, texts or photos; it's important to retain copies of these critical types of evidence.
  3. File an official report - Nearly every business has a sexual harassment policy and a corresponding lawsuit cannot be filed until and unless you file an official compliant with your employer and notify them about the harassment.
  4. Hire an attorney - An attorney who handles employment law and sexual harassment cases will review the evidence of your case, help determine if legal action is appropriate and fight to uphold and defend your rights.

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