There have been a lot of stories in the news about sexual harassment by people in positions of authority. Recent disclosures of sexual harassment have touched various industries including Hollywood, the news media and politics. The collective voices of the people speaking out against these types of behaviors have sparked a national conversation about a person’s fundamental right to a discrimination-free workplace.

Federal and State laws prohibit sexual harassment. Harassers and victims can be male or female and both can be of the same sex. Washington Law takes it a step further than Federal Law and protects against sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. These laws have been in place for many years, but are only effective if they are utilized. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website contains useful information about what you should do if you are being harassed at work.

Many victims of sexual harassment in the workplace don’t report the harassment because they fear they may lose their job. This is especially true if the harasser is a supervisor, manager or in some other position of authority over the victim. But the anti-discrimination laws protect against retaliation for reporting such harassment. Retaliation can include losing your job, as well as less obvious situations such as being moved to a different department, getting a pay cut, or being isolated from co-workers.

Promptly reporting harassment to a higher official is essential to put the employer on notice that discrimination is occurring. If nothing is done after reporting the harassment, the employer may be opening themselves up to a discrimination lawsuit.

From the employer’s side, it is important to promptly investigate every report of harassment in the workplace and take decisive action. If there is a workplace policy about sexual harassment, it should be followed. Every time! The policy and enforcement should not differ in its implementation no matter who is being accused.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable. It causes emotional turmoil to the victims and their families. Contacting an attorney experienced with sexual harassment cases is the first step to holding those employers accountable.