Witnessing Sexual Harassment at Work

If you witness sexual harassment at work, you have the power to say something and make a real difference – not only to the victim, but to everyone else in your workplace as well. You may be able to prevent future such incidents. Learn how to help if you witness sexual harassment at work in Los Angeles.

Who is a Bystander?

A bystander is someone who witnesses sexual harassment at work but is not part of the incident. There are active and passive bystanders. An active bystander acts after witnessing sexual harassment, discrimination or wrongful conduct at work. A passive bystander chooses not to do or say anything. A bystander is passive if he or she does not stop the aggressor or intervene when the victim needs it the most.

Why Should Bystanders Intervene?

Ask yourself if you would want someone to speak up if you were in the victim’s position. If the answer is yes, say something. Intervening is important not only to help the current victim but to also prevent worse behavior against others in the future. Learning how to intervene if you witness sexual harassment at work can help give you the courage and tools to act if you ever find yourself in this position.

The 5 D’s

If you witness sexual harassment or discrimination at work, such as a supervisor making sexual remarks to an intern, be an active bystander instead of passive. There are ways to intervene that can effectively diffuse the situation – and perhaps even change your workplace culture – without putting yourself in danger.

Hollaback!, a workplace sexual harassment training company, created The 5 D’s of Bystander Prevention to help witnesses speak up. They are:

  • Direct: You can respond directly to what you are witnessing by approaching the target and asking if he or she is alright, and if you should get help. You can also confront the harasser directly if you feel safe and comfortable doing so.
  • Distract: Creating a distraction can deescalate a sexual harassment situation. Start a conversation unrelated to the incident with the victim to draw the harasser’s attention away from him or her.
  • Delegate: Identify someone who can help, such as a supervisor or manager, and delegate the responsibility of resolving the issue to that person. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.
  • Document: If another bystander is already doing one of the other four D’s, start documenting the incident (only if it is safe to do so). Film using your phone from a safe distance. Ask the victim what he or she wants you to do with the footage afterward.
  • Delay: Prevent the targeted person from leaving immediately after the incident by asking if he or she is okay. Ask how you can support the victim and share any available resources that you know of in your workplace. Offer to act as a witness if the victim wants to report sexual harassment.

The 5 Ds can help you remember what to do in a tense or frightening situation at work. They can also give you more courage to intervene and help if you witness sexual harassment, assault or discrimination.

Reporting Workplace Sexual Harassment

If you find yourself in the position of bystander while someone in your office is getting sexually harassed, report it. Although you may be nervous about the ramifications of inserting yourself into a situation that you were originally not a part of, reporting sexual harassment is imperative for workplace productivity, security and inclusivity.

Go to your employer or HR department immediately to report what you witnessed. Then, cooperate with an investigation against the harasser as much as possible. If you need further assistance with a sexual harassment claim in Los Angeles, contact an attorney for a free consultation.