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Practical Advice About Workplace Sexual Harassment

What to Do If You’re a Victim, Employer, or Bystander

Dale Bird's avatar

By: Dale Bird

November 16, 2017 | EEO

In response to the mounting revelations of workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment by famous individuals, the New York Times recently published a 2,200-word article about what to do When You Experience Sexual Harassment at Work. It provides detailed legal advice — hardly standard Sunday fare for the Gray Lady. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has also updated its home page with a clear, concise primer called What You Should Know: What to Do if You Believe You Have Been Harassed at Work.

Know Your Rights and Wrongs

Social justice advocates never tire of reminding citizens that it takes more than laws on the books to change societal norms. Indeed, sometimes the longer legal protections are in place, the more citizens take them for granted, without using them. At least two important sexual harassment milestones have been in place longer than most millennials have been in the workforce:

  • 1977 – The first time a federal appeals court said that sexual harassment violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and therefore was legitimate grounds for a legal complaint.

  • 1998 – The year the Supreme Court ruled that employers could be financially liable for an employee’s sexual harassment, even if the employer was unaware of it and had anti-harassment policies in place. 

By making employers liable, the 1998 ruling ushered in a wave of not just anti-harassment policies but prevention training programs. That’s huge progress. Yet judging by the #MeToo movement, not nearly enough.

Here’s some practical advice:

  • If you’re a victim — If you were sexually assaulted, go to the police. If you were sexually harassed, in addition to following your employer’s procedures, you have 180 days following the incident to file a claim with EEOC, your state or local Fair Employment Practices Agency, or both. Write down exactly what happened, secure a witness if there was one, and preserve any evidence. 

  • If you’re a witness — Say something. Bystanders have real power. NewPoint Strategies has helped transform workplace cultures — including the U.S. Navy’s — by training organizations in its bystander intervention program called STOP (Size up the situation, Take action, Offer support, and Prevent).

  • If you’re an employer — Comply with state and federal law. Provide regular, meaningful preventive training, and enforce your anti-harassment policies. 

EEO Case Management for Employers

MicroPact is proud to offer case management solutions for processing sexual harassment and other civil rights claims. entellitrak gives EEO employees the tools needed to effectively create, track, maintain and manage civil rights cases from initiation through resolution. Among federal agencies, ICOMPLAINTS® is used to manage 90 percent of all federal EEO claims.

Contact us to learn more about these solutions.

About the Author

Dale Bird has managed product strategy, development, training, and support for ICOMPLAINTS, the MicroPact software used to process 90% of federal EEO claims, for more than a decade. He has been instrumental in fostering the company’s EEO user forums and community, including the annual 462 Symposium. Dale is a U.S. Army retiree.

Tyler Technologies is the largest and most established provider of integrated software and technology services focused on the public sector

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