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What is your employer's duty once you report sexual harassment?

You've been putting up with sexual harassment for weeks or months now from a co-worker or supervisor. You've tried politely ignoring the harasser as well as directly asking them to stop. You've made your boundaries clear, but the message doesn't seem to be getting through.

Now, it's time to take things up the ladder, either to your supervisor or the Human Resources Department. What do you have a right to expect from your employer once you report the harassment?

Your employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace that is free from sexual harassment. Your employer should:

  1. Listen to your complaints and take them seriously. You have a right to be heard, and you should not be "brushed off" or told to just ignore the issue.
  2. Investigate your allegations. That includes speaking to the harasser and any witnesses.
  3. Putting a stop to the harassment using every reasonable means possible.
  4. Take further disciplinary action against the harasser if there is any further offense.
  5. Make sure that the entire staff has a clear understanding of what type of behavior is considered sexual harassment.
  6. Implement any necessary training programs to prevent the same or similar issues from reoccurring.

Your employer should also make it clear to the entire staff how to report sexual harassment. If your employer has more than five employees, it has a legal obligation in California to provide periodic training on the issue.

If you've tried to report sexual harassment to your employer and received no response or an inadequate one, it may be time to seek legal advice.

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