The truth is, being sexually harassed is very likely going to cost you money.
That sucks and we’re sorry.
What to do if you’ve decided to stay at work
Maybe you’ve decided to just stay at work and try to cope with the harassment.
That might work out fine. But it’s risky, and eventually you may find yourself burnt out and having to quit.
Experts say that, if the harassment is severe enough or goes on long enough, it can wear away at your mental health to the point where you’re unable to work. And the effects creep up on people. It’s not uncommon for someone to think they’re coping fine, and then one day suddenly realize they just can’t go to work anymore.
You don’t want that to happen to you. So, it makes sense to keep an eye on your stress levels. And maybe ask a friend to help you do it too, because they might notice things you don’t.
If you’re taking more sick days, or your doctor has put you on medication for depression or anxiety, or you’re drinking more, for example—and especially if these things have been going on for a while, and are getting worse…it might be time to find a new job—or even a new career—instead of staying where you are.
It’s better to job hunt early, while you’re in good shape, than to wait too long and do it when you’re seriously stressed and unhappy.
What to do if you’ve decided to report the harassment
When people report sexual harassment, it’s really common for them to get punished, including financially. You could get fired, you could lose shifts or clients or customers, or lose new opportunities.
Here are some things you can do that might help make that less likely:
- Before you report, try to build up as much goodwill as you can with your employer and other people at your workplace.
- You might feel the instinct to withdraw socially from people at your work. Don’t do it! You haven’t done anything wrong and you have nothing to be ashamed of, and having solid work relationships can protect you against being judged or punished after you report.
- When you report, make it clear to your employer that you like your job and your employer, and your goal in reporting is to alert them to a safety issue so they can fix it. Try to make it clear that it’s you and your employer against the harassment, not you against your employer.
- Make it clear to your employer that, under the law, you are not supposed to suffer financially because of harassment. So if somebody is going to lose money (from fewer shifts or assignments that pay less well) it should be the harasser, not you. Sometimes employers don’t know this, so it can help if you tell them.
- It’s not your responsibility to figure out how to keep yourself safe from the harasser. That’s your employer’s job. But if you can think of ways your employer can do it, you should tell them. If you can help solve the problem, they may be less likely to punish you.
- If other people are being harassed, try to persuade them to report as well. That way your employer is less likely to single you out and decide you’re the problem.
- If there are witnesses to what’s happened, try to persuade them to come forward—or, even better, to report what’s happening themselves, instead of you doing it. Employers sometimes take a complaint more seriously if it comes from someone other than the person who’s being harassed.
- After you report, try to refocus yourself and your employer on your own career goals. (Like, you can ask for training, or ask them to help you figure out how you can advance inside the company.) The goal here is to help your employer imagine you as someone who’s going to have a long career with them, rather than them thinking of you as someone who’s unhappy and likely to leave.
- Do the same thing with your co-workers and inside your professional network. Talk openly about your work and work goals with other people. That will help them see you less as a harassment victim and more as someone who cares about the work.
What to do if you’ve decided to quit your job, or think you might get fired
Eventually, lots of people end up needing or wanting to get a new job—either to get away from the harassment, or because complaining about it has resulted in getting their punished. But if you wait too long, you might end up needing to job hunt urgently, which might mean you need to take a job you don’t really want. It makes sense to start job hunting early.
When you’re thinking about a new job, here are some things to consider:
- Is it less likely you’ll be harassed at the new job?
- Are the pay and benefits as good as (or better than) the job you’re leaving?
- Does the new job suit you? The location, the hours, the opportunities?
- If you’re asked why you’re leaving your current job, what will you say?
- Will your boss at your current job give you a good reference? If not, will a co-worker?
Before you quit your job, talk with a lawyer
This is really important.
If you decide you need to quit your job due to the harassment, or if you get fired after complaining about harassment, we urge you to talk with a lawyer.
A lawyer can help you figure out if there’s a way to make your employer pay you for any costs the harassment created for you, as well as for the hassle and stress. A couple of hundred dollars for a consultation might turn out to be a very smart financial investment.
The most important advice we’re going to give you
If you’ve been harassed, it’s pretty likely you’ll be harassed again.
There are certain kinds of people who face a higher-than-average risk of harassment, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those people.
If you’re a woman. If you’re under 40. If you’re Indigenous or racialized or 2SLGBTQIA+ or disabled. If you’re an immigrant or a refugee. If you don’t speak the dominant language where you live. If you work in a majority-male environment. If you’re not very social. If you’re poor.
The more of those boxes you tick, the higher the risk that you’ll be harassed.
If your risk is high, it’s pretty likely that you will suffer financially from harassment over the course of your working life, maybe many times.
And that means you need to be careful about money. Maybe other people can afford to be sloppy about it. You are not one of those people.