Seeing the person who sexually harassed you face consequences can be a significant victory. However, many victims of harassment find themselves facing a new challenge in the months after this victory: their harasser’s return to work.
How often do victims continue to work with their harassers?
While we may hope that the consequences that harassers face are significant, the truth is that employers may not uphold the punishment against those accused of sexual harassment. This sometimes occurs because harassers challenge their punishment or because the company does not perceive the offense as serious.
One recent study indicates that nearly half of harassment arbitration cases end with harassers allowed to return to work reduced consequences or no consequences at all. In this study, 13% of harassers returned to work without any negative consequences, 20% were suspended rather than fired and 2% had their punishment reduced to a warning. In fact, only 52% of cases went through with firing the perpetrator.
What can you do if your harasser returns to the office?
While some employers may not view sexual harassment as a serious matter, working with your harasser could have a significant impact on your work and your career. If your harasser returns to work, it is important that you take steps to protect yourself. Some of the steps recommended by human resources professionals include:
- Build boundaries to keep yourself safe—From minimizing contact with your harasser to ensuring that they do not have professional power over you, explore the options available to you. Building boundaries can help you see your harasser less often and keep your harasser from having direct control over you and your career.
- Document any additional harassment or retaliation—Sometimes, returning harassers or their colleagues will work to undermine you in the office. If they continue the harassment or retaliate against you, keep a record of those incidents.
- Do your best to stay productive—While seeing your harasser again can make work a challenge, do what you can to limit the impact that this challenge has on your work. Not only will maintaining your productivity protect your current position, it will make it easier for you to seek employment elsewhere if you decide that working with your harasser is too difficult to continue.
If you suffer sexual harassment in the workplace or if your harasser retaliates against you after their return to work, consider speaking to an attorney about the options available to you. It is possible to protect yourself and your career from the damage that your harasser can do.