To whom do I have to report sexual harassment?


No one really wants to talk to anyone about an experience in which they were sexually harassed. This victim may feel embarrassed enough about experiencing sexual harassment and, as such, it may be tough to re-hash the facts of an incident. Moreover, there is always a question of whether the people to whom the victim reports are trustworthy. If they represent the employer, it may be downright intimidating to report the harassment.

However, Rhode Island victims of sexual harassment need to be aware that, before making a court case out of a hostile work environment, the law effectively requires them to use their company's internal procedures to prevent sexual harassment to see if the problem can be stopped. This will usually require a victim to discuss the incident, at least enough so their employer can investigate further.

Although it can lead to harsh results, the idea behind the rule is that employers cannot be accountable for what individual employees do, even if it is harassing behavior, in every case. All employers can reasonably do is have a clear policy prohibiting sexual harassment and enforcing that policy when it is violated.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. For one, a victim is not going to be expected to use internal channels to stop sexual harassment unless the procedures for using those channels have been clearly and fully explained. It is also important to remember that a victim only has to internally report hostile environment claims, that is, sexual harassment claims which don't involve a direct action against the employee by the employee's supervisor.

While it might be scary to make an appointment with human resources, or whomever in one's company handles harassment claims, and report what is no doubt a painful and stressful experience. However, it may be necessary if one plans to hold their employer accountable for sexual harassment in court.

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