Sexual Harassment Survival Guide
How Do I Know If I Am Being Sexually Harassed?
Sexual harassment is any conduct of a sexual nature that is unwelcome and is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter your work conditions. It can include conduct ranging from repeated sexual jokes to acts of sexual assault.
There are different types of sexual harassment. For example, sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors from your direct boss or anyone with the power to discipline, demote or fire you. Your boss cannot link your continued employment, your compensation or any other condition of your job to your consent to engage in sexual activity or your rejection of sexual advances. Sexual harassment can also be unwelcome conduct of sexual nature – commonly called “hostile work environment sexual harassment” and can be committed by your boss, a co-worker, a subordinate or even a customer. This type of conduct can include unwanted touching, sexual comments, comments about your clothing, your body or your appearance, showing you sexually explicit videos or displaying sexually explicit pictures, sexual jokes or remarks, emails, voice mails, text messages, Snapchats or any other types of social media postings. The conduct does not have to happen at work for it to be considered sexual harassment.
You have a right to work in a workplace free from sexual harassment.
What Do I Do If I Am Being Sexually Harassed?
1.) Tell the harasser to stop and that the behavior is unwelcomed. You can say “please don’t talk to me like that” or “that makes me uncomfortable.” While it is sometimes hard to say these things, it is important to be clear that the harasser’s behavior is unwelcomed.
2.) Document the harassment – make notes, save text messages, voice mail messages, emails, or email the details to yourself. Most phone companies only keep text messages for a few weeks, so it’s important to save them – no matter how offensive or explicit they are. Once you delete them you may never be able to get them back. You are not permitted to record telephone conversations or conversations that you are not a party to.
3.) Obtain company’s anti-harassment policy. This policy might be in a handbook or in the company’s intra-net.
4.) Complain in writing. We recommend using email, since you have proof that you complained, what exactly you complained about, when it was sent and who at the company received it. You should be clear and use the words “sexual harassment.” Language like this is recommended:
“Dear Director of HR,Recently, I have been sexually harassed by __[name]___. This harassment happened on _[date]____. He / she harassed me by __[describe conduct]______. It occurred in ___[place]______. I told him/her to stop several times but he/she keeps doing it. Most recently ___[describe most recent conduct]___.
I would like you to investigate __[name of harasser]___ and get him/her to stop. I like my job and I would like to be able to do it in an environment free from harassment.
Please acknowledge receipt of this email and confirm that you will immediately investigate this complaint.
If your company has a sexual harassment policy, and you are complaining about hostile environment sexual harassment, you are expected to use this policy to officially put the company on notice of the sexual harassment. This is important if you later want to take legal action against the company.
Can My Employer Fire Me If I Make This Complaint?
You have a right to make this complaint. It is against Connecticut and federal law for an employer to fire an employee who makes a good faith complaint of sexual harassment. It is also illegal for your employer to retaliate against you in other ways for complaining. Connecticut law makes it illegal for your employer to relocate you to a different work location; change your work schedule; require you to take a leave of absence or make any other substantive changes to your working conditions – even during an investigation into your complaint – unless you agree in writing to these changes.
Are There Any Time Limitations On When I Can File A Complaint?
If the sexual harassment occurred before October 1, 2019, then a complaint must be filed with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities within 180 days of the sexual harassment.
In response to the #MeToo movement and Connecticut’s own “Time’s Up” bill, the 180-day filing deadline has since been amended. For any sexual harassment occurring on or after October 1, 2019, employees now have 300 days to file a claim of sexual harassment. You may also have claims for civil harassment, assault and battery or if the conduct involved unwanted touching or sexual conduct that you did not consent to you. The time limitations on criminal complaints vary depending on the severity of the crime.
Filing an internal complaint with your employer or a grievance with your union does not stop any these deadlines from running.
If you have questions about filing a complaint with the CHRO or simply want advice as to your work situation, you can contact Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore. Click here to contact us online.
There are also organizations here in Connecticut that can provide helpful information if you believe that you have experienced a criminal assault, want information about a how to obtain a restraining order or information regarding support groups. They include:
The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund
The Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence
The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence