Have you been sexually harassed at work? You're not alone – and - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Have you been sexually harassed at work? You're not alone – and you can get help

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Sexual harassment in the workplace happens more than you might think.

According to a recent report by an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission task force, as many as 85 percent of women nationwide say they've experienced sexual harassment on the clock.

Yet only 6 to 13 percent ever file a formal complaint, the commission says. Although it can happen to men, it's mostly a problem women deal with.

One woman, who spoke with Hawaii News New on the condition that we did not disclose her identity nor that of her employer, says she is a victim of workplace sexual harassment.

She described some of the daily challenges she's had to deal with in the workplace – and also in working with the harasser.

"I have to move in front of him to do stuff, and every time I was like, 'Please, I hope he's busy,'" She said. "I didn't know what to do. I was just dealing with it."

Generally, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances or propositions or the offer of jobs, promotions, or benefits in exchange for sex or sexual favors. Employers are liable for the acts of sexual harassment committed by themselves, their agents, or their supervisory employees.

Bill Hoshijo, the executive director of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, says that although the sheer number of sexual harassment complaints has declined in recent years, it's still on ongoing problem.

"We still see a lot of complaints," Hoshijo said. "The other thing we see are retaliation complaints, so people who come forward to oppose discrimination, oppose harassment, complain that they're being subjected to retaliation."

Retaliation is also against the law. The law protects both female and male employees who are harassed on the basis of their sex.

To be liable for such acts, the law says it doesn't have to be a supervisor or a manager who commits the act – if the supervisor or manager knows about the sexual harassment and fails to take immediate and appropriate action, employers can be found responsible.

If you think you're a victim, first check your company's policies to find your options for filing a complaint. If you're unsatisfied, you can choose to file a formal complaint with either the state Hawaii Civil Rights Commission or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Rumduol Vuong is a supervisory trial attorney with the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office. He says sexual harassment cases can often be difficult to prove, but that victims should still come forward.

"It's often times a case of he said, she said, but we also see a lot of cases where the sexual harassment if being corroborated by co-workers, and this harassment is known by the companies," Vuong said.

If you're an employer, and an employee reports being sexually harassed, you have a duty to investigate. Take immediate corrective action to stop it, and make sure not to retaliate against the employee who reported the harassment.

And the advice from the woman who says she continues to endure sexual harassment at work?

"They should stand up and speak about it, even if they're afraid."

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