What to do if you see a colleague sexually harassed at work

On Behalf of | Aug 25, 2022 | Sexual Harassment

Being sexually harassed at your job is a situation that people hope will never arise. Unfortunately, though, it does happen. Sometimes, employees are unsure of how to handle it – and they’re often doubly unsure about how to handle the situation when they see a co-worker being harassed.

What should you do in that case? Should you ignore it? Should you tell the target of the harassment to report it or even report it yourself? You want to do the right thing. You truly feel for your colleague. You also realize that your intervention may not be desired or needed by the person being harassed. They may choose to address the issue themselves.

Yet another matter can crop up if you are aware of the sexual harassment of someone else: As stated by the National Partnership for Women & Families, “If someone witnesses offensive conduct, [they] may be the victim of sexual harassment even if not directly harassed.”

Steps you can take in this situation

These approaches are ones you can consider taking: 

  • Delay: After an incident of harassment, ask your co-worker if and how you can pitch in on their behalf.
  • Direct: Tell the person perpetrating the harassment to cease. You may not necessarily feel comfortable doing this. Check with the individual being harassed first.
  • Document: Keep track of the details, such as what was said and the time, date and place. Only show it to anyone else if you have the go-ahead from the person getting the harassment.
  • Delegate: If neither you nor the person involved wishes to take action, see if someone else can, such as an HR representative.
  • Distract: Distance the person from their harasser temporarily by saying you need help with something.

Protect yourself against workplace sexual harassment

Find out what protections exist under the law for you as someone who saw sexual harassment. You might decide to consult someone who can clarify this for you before taking any measures to assist your colleague.

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