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What you can do about sexual harassment at work

Sexual harassment is a problem no matter where it occurs. When it happens at work, however, it affects not only your emotional and physical well-being but your livelihood.

That's why it's important to know what you can do to fight back. If you're experiencing sexual harassment on the job, you can (and should) take the following steps:

1. Tell your harasser to stop.

The line between boorish "flirting" and actual harassment is sometimes hard for people to grasp. If you're the recipient of unwanted sexual attention, you have to make the other person aware that the behavior is unacceptable and unappreciated. If that stops the behavior, that's fantastic. If not, you have to take further action.

2. If the behavior doesn't stop once you make your displeasure known, find out the company policy on reporting sexual harassment.

Most companies have an established set of procedures they expect employees to follow when there's a problem. Look at your employee handbook, company website or contact human resources for information if necessary to find out what to do. Follow those steps and keep track of what is done in response -- and whether or not the harassment continues.

3. Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and file a complaint.

The EEOC will investigate and attempt to resolve the issue. If it cannot be resolved and your complaint is valid, you'll be issued a letter regarding your "right to sue."

4. File a claim in civil court.

After you have a letter granting you the right to do so, you have only 90 days in which to bring your lawsuit demanding damages, restitution or other remedies from your employer. This isn't long -- so be prepared with as much evidence as you can gather in support of your case.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Filing a Lawsuit," accessed March 14, 2018

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