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Ways co-workers can reduce sexual harassment and support victims

With surveys revealing that 25 percent of women and a smaller percentage of men endure sexual harassment at work, many people will likely witness the behavior while on the job in California. Over 70 percent of victims do not report their mistreatment because they fear retaliation. Co-workers typically stay silent as well, but their willingness to speak up could discourage an abusive workplace culture.

The executive director of Equal Rights Advocates suggested that people should immediately voice concern when they witness sexual harassment or overhear co-workers making lewd remarks about a colleague. A simple statement of disapproval or discomfort could warn harassers that they could be reported. Two professors quoted in a Harvard Business Review article said that men had a special obligation to discourage the mistreatment of women in the workplace. They needed to monitor their own behavior and never silently accept the misdeeds of male colleagues.

Someone who sees a colleague being harassed should also approach that person privately to discuss the problem. The co-worker could express the desire to report the problem to human resources or a supervisor. Although the victim might have trouble discussing the harassment, the willingness of a witness to confirm harassment could make it easier for the victim to come forward. A concerned employee could also approach management and request that the organization create sexual harassment training and have it specifically addressed in the employee handbook.

Sexual harassment can range from offensive sexual comments to demands for sex from a supervisor. A person who needs to address mistreatment at work could ask an attorney to evaluate evidence and create a lawsuit. An attorney could organize evidence like texts and emails, reports to management and testimony from co-workers. This information could persuade a jury to hold an employer financially responsible for the harassment.

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