NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Workplace harassment can be a serious issue.
So CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu got some expert advice on what your rights are and how to protect yourself if you’re the target.
For some, whether or not to report harassment can be a tough decision to make.
“It’s either you take your chances of saying something to the higher-ups and getting fired or you just keep your mouth shut,” said Queens resident Dekeisha George Jituvo.
But psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere said suffering in silence can destroy a person.
“They feel alone, they feel powerless and therefore they can become very depressed to the point of where they just can’t function at the site anymore,” Gardere, of Touro College, told Hsu.
Sexual harassment comes in all forms, from off-color jokes to constant come-ons.
Gardere said targets should voice their discomfort up front to try to nip the harassment in the bud early.
“The first thing that they should do is actually speak to the person who is harassing them because that person may not even be aware of it, especially if it’s something that is mild or done out of ignorance,” Gardere told Hsu.
Valdi Licul is an employment attorney and said it’s important to know when you’re being harassed.
“If you dread going to work, if you try to avoid the harasser, whether that person is your boss or a co-worker, if you’re missing meetings, if your performance is being affected,” Licul told Hsu.
Those who feel that they are being harassed at the workplace are protected by law. But Licul said targets need to make a complaint to their boss or, if he or she is the harasser, go to the supervisor’s boss or human resources to report harassment.
Without a formal complaint, Licul said employees may be on their own.
“The employer can always say — and this is a legal defense — ‘We didn’t know, you never told us this was going on and therefore we couldn’t fix the problem. Had we known, we would’ve fixed it.’ And that can let the employer off the hook,” Licul said.
Licul said a lawsuit should be a last option for those who are harassed.
There are also agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where victims can make complaints and get more information about the issue.
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