Do you dread going to work each day because you must deal with your coworkers making sexual comments or behaving in an inappropriate way? Sexual harassment is illegal behavior that many Iowans nonetheless face in their workplace.
What is Sexual Harassment in the Iowa Workplace?
There are many different forms that sexual harassment can take in the workplace.
Some types of harassment can include:
- Unwanted touching, gesturing, assault, or other physical contact
- Verbal harassment in the form of sexual jokes, lewd comments on your appearance or sexuality, demeaning or sexually explicit language, or whistling or cat-calling
- “Quid-pro-quo” proposition, where a boss or supervisor promises a raise, a promotion, or other job perks in exchange for putting up with their inappropriate conduct.
If you find yourself the victim of harassment, you may feel overwhelmed, angry, or helpless. You may feel betrayed by your coworkers or employer.
However, there are some things you can do to make the harassment stop and protect yourself in the workplace.
How to Protect Yourself if You are Being Sexually Harassed
First, make sure you are not “dishing it out” or trying to fight fire with fire. The behavior needs to seem unwelcome to have a legal basis for a claim. For example, if you are being called lewd names, asking for the harassment to stop is a much better reaction than responding with your own harassing or inappropriate names.
Second, be sure to report the harassment to your employer. Once individuals in managerial or supervisory roles know about the harassment, they are obligated to take steps to make the harassment stop. However, before they can address it, they have to know it’s happening first.
File a Harassment Complaint with Your Employer
Many employers have anti-harassment policies and provide procedures for reporting harassment. Follow these procedures to report harassment if they exist. If these procedures do not exist, you can still file a complaint.
Submit your harassment complaint to your employer in writing, and keep a copy of the complaint at home, on your personal computer. Be specific about the harassment you face – even if it’s explicit or embarrassing. This can include the exact words that are said, the physical contact that occurred, or the gestures that were made. Include names, dates, and any other details you think are important in the complaint.
If you are not specific enough when you report the harassment, your employer may not have to take action beyond possibly investigating your claims.
Keep in mind, there is no set way on how an employer has to address the harassment – by law, they only have to make “reasonable efforts” to address the harassment. This may mean launching an investigation into your claims of harassment, and some type of disciplinary action if they find your claims to be justified.
Each employer is allowed to handle their “reasonable efforts” differently, so long as their actions aim at ending the harassment and have a reasonable likelihood of doing so.
Retaliation After Reporting Harassment
If you are fired, demoted, or otherwise affected because of reporting the harassment to your employer or for filing a complaint, you may be considered a victim of retaliation. Retaliation is illegal but is also a fairly common reaction to reports of harassment.
If you believe you are being retaliated against for filing a harassment complaint, you should speak with an experienced Iowa employment law attorney as soon as possible to know your rights.
There is a limited amount of time to file a claim against your employer for harassment. This is known as the statute of limitations. In Iowa, the deadline to file a complaint is 300 days from the date the unlawful act occurred.
We offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation to Iowa workers who are victims of harassment. To schedule yours, call 1-800-433-0283 today.