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Do you know what to do if you've been sexually harassed at work?

"Hey, baby, give me a smile." In some situations, that line might be welcome as well-intended encouragement. If it comes from an unwanted source at work, it could be considered sexual harassment. Inappropriate invitations and gifts or incessant hounding to go on a date, even after you've repeatedly said no, could also be harassment.

The issue of sex-based harassment and discrimination in the workplace is something that is top of mind for many people in West Virginia and the rest of the country right now. It's easy to assume that women are the only victims and that men are the only perpetrators, but those with experience in this area of the law know that both genders can sexually harass. The question is do you know what to do about it?

You can act

If you believe you are being sexually harassed, here are actions you can take.

  1. Don't ignore the situation. When you are the target of offending behavior, tell the person responsible to stop. Find out if your company has a policy to counter offensive conduct, learn what it calls for and follow it carefully.

  2. Record the episodes. Document in writing whenever something happens – dates, times and circumstances. Include the names of witnesses when possible, but don't worry if you don't have them. Harassers tend to not show their colors when others are around. Be sure to track the company's response, as well.

  3. File a report. If no company policy exists, you are still within your rights to report a harassment violation to your supervisor. If the supervisor is the source of the harassment, take the matter to that person's superior or the personnel department.

If you feel uncomfortable reporting the situation internally, know you have the right to file a formal complaint with the state or federal Equal Employment Opportunity offices. And if you have any questions about your rights and how to protect them, consult an experienced attorney.

When it comes to sexual harassment, it can be helpful to keep in mind that it is never accidental. It is illegal and your employer has an obligation to ensure employees have a safe place to work.

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