10 Things Every Latina Should Know About Sexual Harassment

Herman Cain, who is vying to become the Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in 2012, is dominating the news headlines--not because of his “9-9-9” flat tax plan, but because of allegations of sexual harassment lodged by several women.

That got us thinking about the things that every woman should know to identify and survive sexual harassment.

1.What is it?: Sexual harassment, a form of sex discrimination, is legally defined as “unwelcome verbal, visual, physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”

2. Unwelcome is the key as opposed to involuntary behavior: For example, a victim, feeling pressured by the harasser, may agree to participate in offensive and unacceptable conduct. The proposal is not only indecent and unwarranted, it is harassment.

3. It’s Illegal: Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights acts requires private and most public employers, unions, and employment agencies to prevent or stop sexual harassment that occurs on the job. Each state has laws prohibiting sexual harassment.

4. Who is a Harasser?: Although not exclusively, the harasser is senior at work to the victim, can be a client, colleague, or teacher, and can be of any gender.

5. To Report...: If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you have options: report it to a superior, use your company’s complaint process, file a charge with a state or federal agency keeping in mind legal deadlines, and/or go to court.

6....Or Not to Report: Many choose to not lodge a complaint for many different reasons, such as losing their job. If you don’t, know that the harasser may continue victimizing others and that you are letting the employer—who is responsible for staff’s behavior while on the clock—off the hook.

7. Retaliation is Illegal: An employer getting back at an employee for reporting or participating in an investigation of sexual harassment is against the law.  Examples: after filing or participating in an investigation, you are placed on unpaid leave.

8. Document Everything: Communicate to the harasser in writing and verbally that the behavior is unsolicited and unacceptable; keep a written record of what, when, where the sexual harassment occurred, and who was involved; start a paper trail with your employer describing what happened and how you want the harassment resolved.

9. Know Your Company’s Culture: Is there training offered to employees to prevent and spot sexual harassment? How is this detailed in the employee handbook? How has the company dealt with previous incidences?

10. Get Expert Advise: Consult an attorney, an advocacy group, or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency tasked with enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws. Call: 1-800-669-4000 to be connected to your local EEOC office or on the web: www.eeoc.gov