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What to do about sexual harassment in the Bay Area workplace

You sense an uncomfortableness in the workplace, but you think you're just being paranoid.

Or, maybe, it's just what you think it is. You're being sexually harassed on the job.

Sexual harassment isn't always obvious but there are telltale signs to watch for. If you're a victim, the behavior becomes illegal when it often occurs enough, when it's severe enough that the workplace turns hostile or when the victim loses their job.

Harassment to one is sometimes not harassment to another. Still, there are some workplace behaviors to watch out for that generally are considered sexual harassment.

1. You are on the receiving end of sexual comments or requests that you consider offensive and unwanted that move beyond friendly, workplace conversations. They can include comments about your body that go beyond, "That sweater is a nice color" to "That sweater really shows off your best feature," for example. A person's talk about their sexual exploits, trying to get you to talk about yours or someone showing you pornography also is considered harassment.

2. You can't get the other person to stop committing such behavior even after you've asked for it to stop. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says an isolated incident or random comment isn't unlawful. When it becomes commonplace and affects you at work, it is.

3. You feel pressure to partake in the conversation or go along with what is being asked of you because you of the role the harasser fills in your workplace.

4. You don't want to complain because you think your supervisor or human resources staff member won't believe you or will think less of you because you couldn't solve the problem on your own.

5. You have seen what has happened to other people who have complained. Perhaps they've been negatively labeled as a troublemaker, demoted or even fired.

You have a right to go to work every day and do your job without the fear of sexual harassment. You are protected by law. If you have made complaints and gotten no results, or if you have suffered a job loss or demotion, contact a Bay Area attorney with employment law experience to help you achieve the workplace rights you have earned.

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