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Harassment in the Workplace: What Should You Do?

A young man and  woman having a conversation at a restaurant.

There are many ways one can be harassed at work, which includes sexual and many non-sexual types of harassment.

Harassing conduct may include offensive jokes, slurs, name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures, and other behavior. Sexual harassment includes any uninvited comments, conduct, or behavior regarding sex, gender, or sexual orientation. It's vital to understand workplace harassment because it can affect you in many different ways.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if you feel you have been harassed at work you should:

  1. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell the person who is harassing you to stop.
  2. If you do not feel comfortable confronting the harasser directly, or if the behavior does not stop, follow the steps below:
    1. Check to see if your employer has an anti-harassment policy. This may be on the employer's website. If it's not, check your employee handbook. Finally, you can ask any supervisor (it does not have to be your supervisor) or someone in Human Resources (if your employer has an HR department) whether there is an anti-harassment policy and if so, to give you a copy.
    2. If there is a policy, follow the steps in the policy. The policy should give you various options for reporting the harassment, including the option of filing a complaint.
    3. If there is no policy, talk with a supervisor. You can talk with your own supervisor, the supervisor of the person who is harassing you, or any supervisor in the organization. Explain what has happened and ask for that person's help in getting the behavior to stop.
    4. The law protects you from retaliation (punishment) for complaining about harassment. You have a right to report harassment, participate in a harassment investigation or lawsuit, or oppose harassment, without being retaliated against for doing so.
    5. You always have an option of filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC to complain about the harassment. There are specific time limits for filing a charge (180 or 300 days, depending on where you work), so contact EEOC promptly. See EEOC's How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination. You can also meet with EEOC to discuss your situation and your options. This conversation is confidential. Note: federal employees and job applicants have a different complaint process and different time limits.
    6. When the agency becomes aware of allegations of harassment, management is required to contact the NIH Civil Program immediately. Civil Program staff will provide you with information about the NIH administrative inquiry process that must be conducted on all allegations of harassment. In addition,

Don't allow anyone to dismiss harassment as harmless or as part of the company climate. Standing up to workplace harassment is everyone's responsibility.

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