If you’re considering quitting your job, we urge you to talk with a lawyer first. A lawyer can help you figure out whether there’s a way to get your employer to pay you money to make up for the harassment.

Why quit your job

That’s easy. Quitting your job is the fastest and simplest way to stop the harassment and get out of an unhealthy workplace. It immediately reduces the risk that something really bad will happen to you. It’s the fastest way to shut down the whole problem and get on with your life.

Why not quit your job

Because you shouldn’t have to. Why should you have to leave your job, just because someone decided to harass you?

Who quits their job to get away from harassment

Mostly it’s two types of people. People who do work where it’s normal to change jobs a lot, and people who are facing really severe or long-term harassment.

Jobs where it’s normal to move around a lot

In some types of work, changing jobs a lot is normal. This is true in the hospitality sector (like bartending, serving, hosting), in retail jobs, in some kinds of sales and customer support work, and some kinds of personal or homecare support (like PSW or cleaning work).

Usually, these jobs don’t require too much specialized training, there are lots of jobs available, they’re all pretty similar to each other, and often people get new jobs through their friends. That makes it easy to move around.

For people in jobs like that, quitting can be a pretty easy decision. Those people usually quit quickly and don’t say why they’re leaving.

Jobs where you’ve faced really severe or long-term harassment

When they get harassed, most people don’t quit right away. But if the harassment is very severe or goes on for a long time, most people will eventually quit. This is especially true for jobs and workplaces where there’s a lot of harassment, like industries with lots of male customers and clients (like hospitality) or where the workforce is mostly men (like construction or law enforcement or software development). It’s also true for racialized people in majority-white workplaces, and 2SLGBTQIA+ people in workplaces where they’re in the minority.

For people in those jobs, quitting can be a really hard decision. By the time they quit, they are much more likely to tell their employer why they’re leaving (or their employer already knows), and they are much likelier to leave on bad terms.

How to know when to quit

We couldn’t find any studies or surveys that asked people who’d quit due to harassment how they felt about it afterwards. But based on the people we’ve interviewed and stories we’ve read, it seems like most people don’t regret quitting.

Some people, though, do wish they’d quit sooner.

So we think that, if you’re seriously considering quitting your job because of harassment, you should probably go ahead and do it. The question for you really isn’t whether to quit, it’s how to quit in a way that’s best for your career.

How to quit in a way that protects your career

If you want to quit and it’s easy for you, then you should just do it. Find yourself a new job and get out of the old one. Don’t tell people why you’re quitting, just make up an excuse. That way, you can leave on good terms and nobody will gossip about you.

If your situation is more complicated though, then quitting will be more complicated too.

In that case, here’s our advice.

Try not to quit until you have another job lined up

If you’re afraid for your safety, you might need to just flat-out quit. But if it’s safe to stay, you should try to stick it out until you have a new job. Here’s an article that explains why.

Start job hunting early, before you think you need to

A lot of people don’t start job hunting until they’re already pretty stressed out. So we urge you to start job hunting early, even if you’re not sure yet that you’re going to quit. You don’t want to job hunt in a rush or while you’re super-stressed, because that’ll make it hard for you to find a good job. So the minute you start to even start to think about quitting, that’s when we think you should start looking for a new job.

Be careful what you say about why you’re leaving your current job

It can be tough to know what to say in interviews about why you’re looking for a new job.

Before you accept a new job, evaluate it as though you weren’t being harassed

A lot of times when people job hunt due to sexual harassment, they end up accepting a new job that’s worse than their old one. It pays less, the benefits are worse, or there are just things about it that suit them less well. Before you accept a new job, take some time to consider whether you’d be accepting it if you weren’t being harassed.

Talk with a lawyer before you quit

This is really important. If you’re considering quitting your job due to harassment, your employer might be legally obligated to pay you money if they didn’t do enough to make the harassment stop, or if they punished you for complaining about it. A lawyer can help you figure this out.

Consider whether you want to leave not just your job, but your entire industry

If you work in a high-harassment industry, you might be just as likely to get harassed in your next job as you were in your current one. Once people realize how harassment-heavy their industry is, it’s actually really common for them to decide to completely bail out of it. It’s so common we wrote an entire article about it.

A final note about guilt and shame

When we talked with people and read their stories, we found that lots of people who quit their job to get away from sexual harassment felt guilty about it afterwards. They felt like they should have been “brave,” and “stood up” and “fought back.” They worried that by quitting they were being cowards, and letting down other people.

We understand why people feel that way. But we want to give you a different way to think about it.

The reality is that “standing up” and “fighting back” might not be what’s best for you. There’ve been literally decades of studies and surveys about exactly this. Sometimes reporting works out fine for the person who does it. But more often, the person who reports is the one who ends up getting punished. Researchers have been saying for decades that not reporting is a rational and sensible decision.

So here’s what we want you to know.

There is no “cowardly” way to respond to sexual harassment.

There is no reason for you to feel guilty or ashamed.

Nobody reasonable thinks you should become a martyr over this. Nobody wants your career, your reputation, and your finances to be ruined.

You have every right to do what’s best for you, and you should feel good about what you do, no matter what it is. 

Any choice you make is a brave and honourable choice.