How to Help a Friend Who Is a Workplace Sexual Harassment Victim

How to Help a Friend Who Is a Workplace Sexual Harassment Victim

Workplace sexual harassment has serious implications for both women employees and their employers. Victims of targeted sexual harassment in the workpl

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Workplace sexual harassment has serious implications for both women employees and their employers. Victims of targeted sexual harassment in the workplace may experience a wide range of negative consequences, including physical and psychological health issues, abandonment of well-paying professions, forced job change, unemployment, and lower wages. Sexual harassment can also restrict or discourage female workers from taking up more challenging work assignments or advancing into well-paying careers.  

If your friend is a workplace sexual harassment victim, you can be her pillar of strength. Here in this post, we will discuss how you can help her:

When you are Around – Intervene and document the incident

When possible, you can directly intervene in the harassment. It means directly addressing the harasser and firmly telling them things like:

  •  “What you’re doing is inappropriate.”
  •  “That’s sexual harassment.”
  • “She does not want to date you; stop texting her!”

You can help your friend by documenting the incident. Recording the date, time, and witnesses can go a long way in proving a workplace sexual harassment claim in a court of law, if necessary.

In most cases, an assailant will back off the moment he knows someone is filming him. A video recording can also help if your friend wants to report workplace sexual harassment to the company management or concerned authorities.

Once the incident is over, ask your friend what she wants to do with the video footage.

Do not post the footage, messenger chat, emails or any such evidence of sexual harassment on social media platforms without her consent. It can worsen her situation. Not every sexual harassment victim is willing to invite public attention while trying to shame a harasser on social media platforms.

Listen to Her Story

What your friend needs the most at this junction is your unwavering support.

When your friend opens up to you, patiently listen to what she has to say. She may also want to vent out her anger, frustration, fear or sadness about the recent incident of sexual harassment in the workplace. Let her know that you believe and support her. Don’t cast doubt on her story.

Ask Her What She Needs  

Do not make simplistic assumptions about what your friend needs.

Ask her if she wants you to –

  • Listen to her without interjecting
  •  Advise her on what to do next
  • Not press her for more details of the incident
  • Take her to a therapist
  •  Find out how to report the incident
  • Take her to an ER (Emergency Room) doctor
  •         Make some calls

Encourage Your Friend to Seek Help

A workplace sexual harassment victim shouldn’t be forced to seek therapy or press charges against the harasser. You can, however, tell your friend that all decisions are completely up to her and gently encourage her to seek psychological counseling, medical treatment or press charges.

Seeking medical attention or visiting an ER doctor for a forensic medical exam is a time-sensitive decision; it’s important when the victim is at the risk of contracting STDs or getting pregnant.

Continue Supporting Her Long after the Incident is over

Recovery from an incident of workplace sexual harassment may take more time than you might think. She may think of quitting her job, switching careers or develop subtle insecurities about working with men. You need to gently steer your friend on the path to recovery.  

Help Your Friend Explore the Legal Remedies

Legally, workplace sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act also protects workers from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, and country of origin. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing employment discrimination laws. The harasser and the victim can be of the same or opposite sexes.

You can help your friend meet an experienced employment law attorney specializing in workplace sex discrimination claims.

Your friend need not necessarily hire an attorney to report workplace sexual harassment to your employer, the EEOC or the state/local Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA). However, if the situation is confusing and your friend is unsure of whether certain behavior by a co-worker or supervisor constitutes sexual harassment or she believes the employer is unlikely to address the matter to her satisfaction, she may want to seek legal advice from an employment law expert.

In case your friend resigned from the job due to a hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment (e.g. sexual favors in return for something in the workplace) or if she was fired in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint, it may be a fit case for a wrongful termination claim.

Disclaimer: This is not legal information. No attorney-client privileges are substantiated from this article.  

Author Bio

Frank Feldman is PR/Media Manager at Stephen Danz & Associates, one of the largest law firms committed solely to representing employees in their disputes with employers in California.