Among the many difficult decisions employees can face at work, one stands out above all the rest: How can you identify and stop harassment? Some harassment is obvious. Unwanted behavior can include off-color jokes or occasional “secret admirer” gifts with suggestive cards you find on your desk.

Harassment can also be subtle, like a stealth attack. It can happen in front of other people, but you feel uneasy. Lately, this person finds reasons to single you out for inappropriate praise or appreciative remarks about your appearance.

Know your rights under the law

Employees in America do not have to endure workplace harassment. Laws exist to notify employers that workers have rights. There are punishments for employers who know or should have known about harassment and harassment risks within their organization, and they took no steps to address complaints or safety issues.

Take steps to stop harassment

A common reaction of harassment victims is to wonder if something wrong took place. People are afraid to speak because they doubt themselves or fear retribution from their company for causing trouble. You have a right to trust your feelings. If something seems wrong, remember that the law protects you. Take the following steps:

  • Speak to the person and clearly describe the incident(s). Ask the person to stop.
  • If the person continues to harass you, file a complaint according to your company’s harassment policy or write a complaint letter to a company authority.
  • Keep a small, protected notebook in your pocket or purse. Record each incident of harassment and the steps you took, such as asking the offending person to stop and details about reporting the incident. Never leave the notebook at work.
  • Follow up with remarks about what the company did (if anything) and whether the other person ceased to harass you. Record each event in your notebook.

If the harassment continues or escalates, make an appointment with an Arizona employment law professional to help you pursue your protected rights and options.

What to do if physical harassment occurs

Some harassment is blatant and occurs when no one else is around; you and the offender both know that the person has crossed a line, and their behavior is illegal. Tell the person to stop at once; you should also leave immediately. If the person blocks your exit, speak in a loud voice so other employees can hear you. Order the person to move away from the door so you can leave.

Immediately report the assault to a person of authority in your company. If that person ignores you or tells you nothing happened, call the police. Inform them you want to file an assault report. If you do not feel safe, tell the police you will meet them outside the building. While you are waiting for help, write an email on your phone describing the incident in detail. Send it to your home email address with a copy to your legal counsel. Include the fact that your employer ignored your plea for help, and you are therefore filing an official report of the assault with your city law enforcement.