Sexual harassment at the workplace, unfortunately, is all too common. Even in the advent of various movements advocating against it, many harassing comments and situations still go relatively unnoticed. As a result of numerous power dynamics at play, victims of these inappropriate comments may feel like they have no influence when reporting this behaviour.
This is not decisively true. Although it may seem like you are generally unprotected against these terrible remarks, there are systems in place to help. All you have to do is take the necessary action to stop them and effectively prevent them from happening again. If necessary, you may need to contact an employment lawyer Toronto for help.
Here are some effective ways on how to prevent inappropriate sexual comments in the workplace:
1. Ask the Harasser to Stop the Comments
Sometimes, it may be as simple as asking the abuser to just stop. If the situation doesn’t spur more toxic comments, the person conducting the inappropriate action may cease their actions. This may be because they are called out on their remarks and won’t risk any tangible consequences at the workplace.
Other times, it may be because they did not even know what they were saying was considered as inappropriate. Whatever the situation may be, you have the power to tell anyone who is making lewd comments to stop immediately. Your emotional and mental well-being comes first, and should not be taken lightly by other co-workers.
2. Get Familiar with Workplace Policies
Getting familiar with your company’s policies will surely help prevent inappropriate sexual comments in the workplace. When you are hired, you are generally given the rundown of your company’s policies and processes. If you haven’t already become acquainted with their complaint process, you should take some time to do so. This is a preventive measure in case you find yourself being the victim of sexually harassing comments.
Try to find sections in your employee manual or handbook that delineate the complaint process. This portion should clearly outline how to report conduct that makes you feel uncomfortable at the workplace. Once this is completed and remembered, you are in a good starting position for protecting yourself should things go awry.
3. Report the Inappropriate Comments
Most companies in the modern workplace have policies that dictate what constitutes standard behaviour. Making sexual comments towards fellow co-workers is something that is considered to be intolerable. As a result, you should report these to higher management.
You are well within your legal rights to make the behaviour known to HR or a senior manager. If certain sexualized comments make you feel uncomfortable at work, you should never let it continue. This is because it may come across as normalized behaviour to the abuser, and it might linger far longer than you’d like it to.
4. Document Everything
Try to think of this as preparing for an exam; you should properly write down all inappropriate interactions with sexually harassing co-workers in order to protect yourself once a complaint has been filed. This includes keeping a record of more than just the comments made.
Ensure that you document when the comments were made, the date and times, emails, text messages, or where it happened. All of these saved records will work in your favour, should the situation come to light. Remember, sexually-exploitative comments should never fester. Having good records of all comments made will protect you once the case is made.
5. Have Management Take Action
Once you have brought the inappropriate comments to the attention of your boss, they are liable to investigate. Once they have thoroughly considered your plight, they should take punitive action against the individual who has made the lewd remarks. This is to ensure that it won’t happen again and that you remain comfortable working at the company.
6. Talk to Legal Counsel
If you feel like the inappropriate comments have gotten out of hand, and your company isn’t doing anything substantial about it, you should take legal action. In this situation, you should definitely speak with a lawyer about your situation. Legal counsel will provide you with the best course of action to take, some of which can initially come free of charge.
The process is confidential as well, so you never have to worry about your circumstances becoming known the sexual harasser or company. Should your lawyer feel like it is time to take definitive action, you will be informed of all of your rights beforehand. Weigh your options accordingly, and make the decision best suited for your situation.
This should only be taken into consideration if you are fully prepared to file a lawsuit against your harasser, your company, or both. If higher management does not take your complaint seriously, or if you get fired in drastic circumstances, you are well within your rights to sue. Just be sure to take in all of your lawyer’s advice before committing to this course of action.
If you, or someone in your workplace, are being harassed by a fellow team member with even the slightest of vulgar comments, you should take action. You may feel like you are powerless to speak up, but you are always legally protected. Comfort and agency at the workplace should never be threatened; you should always do what is best for you.