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Here’s what to do if you are sexually harassed at work

Sexual harassment is not uncommon in the workplace. In a 2015 survey of 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees, Cosmopolitan found 1 in 3 women experienced sexual harassment at work at some point in their lives.

Here’s what you should know about sexual harassment in the workplace, according to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor:

What is sexual harassment?

Generally, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

According to the Department of Labor, there are two forms of sexual harassment:

  • Quid pro quo: Involves an employment decision based on submission to the sexual harassment, such as promotion, assignment or keeping your job
  • Hostile work environment: Sexual harassment makes workplace hostile, intimidating, abusive or offensive

Are there state laws with more protections against sexual harassment in addition to Title VII?

Some states have adopted stronger protections. Harassment can include, but is not limited to:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances;
  • Requests for sexual favors;
  • Other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature;
  • Non-sexual but offensive remarks about a person’s sex.

Harassment is illegal when:

  • Conduct is unwelcome;
  • Conduct is “based on the victim’s protected status”;
  • Subjectively abusive to person affected;
  • “Severe and pervasive” enough to create a work environment that a “reasonable person” would find hostile.

What factors are used to determine of harassment is “severe and pervasive” enough?

  • Frequency of unwelcome conduct;
  • Severity of conduct;
  • Whether conduct was physically threatening/humiliating or “mere offensive utterance”;
  • Where conduct “unreasonably” interfered with work performance;
  • Effect on employee’s psychological well-being;
  • Whether harasser was a superior at the organization.

From the Department of Labor:

Each factor is considered, but none are required or dispositive. Hostile work environment cases are often difficult to recognize, because the particular facts of each situation determine whether offensive conduct has crossed the line from “ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language . . . and occasional teasing,” to unlawful harassment.

However, the intent of the Department of Labor's Harassing Conduct Policy is to provide a process for addressing incidents of unwelcome conduct long before they become severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment under the law.

Does the gender of the victim or harasser matter?

No. Both the victim and harasser can be either a woman or a man — or both can be the same sex.

Does the title of the harasser matter?

No. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another department, a coworker, an employee of a separate employer, a client or a customer.

What about teasing?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents that are “not very serious.”

However, teasing becomes illegal when:

  • The behavior becomes frequent or severe;
  • The behavior creates a hostile or offensive work environment;
  • The behavior results in an adverse employment decision (victim is fired or demoted).

What if you weren’t directly harassed but you feel affected?

You do not have to be the victim of direct harassment to be affected by the offensive conduct. It is still considered sexual harassment, according to the EEOC.

What should you do if you experience sexual harassment?

Inform the harasser at once that the behavior is unwelcome, then directly use “any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.” 

This may include reaching out to your direct manager or employer or talking to your company’s human resources department. Check your employee handbook for more information.

If you really can’t find someone you trust, labor and law employment attorney Nannina Angioni suggests you contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Experts also recommend filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Find directions on the EEOC’s website.

You may also want to continue keeping a record of the discriminatory activity and seek support from friends and family.

What if speaking out is too difficult?

“Some victims will never report abuse, and they have that right,” psychologist Nekeshia Hammond told NBC News. “It’s a case by case thing, and sometimes there’s a reason for staying silent — if you feel your safety is threatened, or if you’re literally on the verge of having an emotional breakdown and will be unable to function. But you need to reach out to someone.”

Hammond recommends calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), which includes free services and confidential support.

Can staying silent work against me, legally?

According to the Department of Labor, “the department cannot correct harassing conduct if a supervisor, manager or other Department official does not become aware of it.”

In fact, when an employee “unreasonably fails to report harassing conduct,” the department can use this as a defense against a suit for harassment.

Additionally, if you file a complaint with the EEOC, it’s recommended you do so within 180 days of the discriminatory activity.

» RELATED: Woman says she lost work hours after reporting sexual harassment

How does the EEOC investigate allegations of sexual harassment?

The department looks at the circumstances of the misconduct, the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the incidents allegedly occurred.

“A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis,” the EEOC website states.

How can companies stop sexual harassment from occurring?

According to the EEOC, prevention is the best tool. Employers should be vocal about the intolerance of sexual harassment and establish a complaint and grievance system.

Learn more about workplace sexual harassment at dol.gov and eeoc.gov.

Watch: Dashcam video shows troopers, passersby rescue driver from burning car

Connecticut state troopers and passersby are being hailed as heroes after footage from a dashboard camera captured their rescue of a New York driver from a burning vehicle. 

The rescue happened around 2:35 p.m. Monday on Interstate 84 in Middlebury, where troopers were called to the scene of a single-vehicle crash. Connecticut State Police officials reported that a sergeant on his way home from training was near the scene and arrived shortly after the call was received.

The trooper found passersby trying to remove the trapped 26-year-old driver from the car, which was sending a large amount of smoke into the air, the statement from troopers said. The trooper tried to extinguish the flames with a fire extinguisher from his police cruiser, but the fire continued to burn. 

Two additional troopers arrived at the scene and helped those already trying to pry the door of the car open. By breaking a window, the rescuers were able to remove the injured driver from the vehicle.

The dashcam video shows troopers carrying the driver, who sustained minor injuries, from the wreckage.

Two of the troopers suffered cuts to their hands from the broken window, the statement from state police officials said

The agency shared the video in two parts on Facebook, where commenters praised those who saved the driver. 

“Heroic efforts by all,” one woman wrote. “He’s a very lucky guy right there!”

“Troopers are the best,” one man wrote. “Awesome job.”

Another man praised the civilians involved in the rescue, as well.

“The trooper has the resources available, but he/she can’t always do it alone,” the man wrote. “Thanks to the other motorists for all their help, too!”

Woman accused of killing Thanksgiving dinner guest for smoking crack

A Minnesota woman is facing second-degree murder charges after she allegedly killed one of her Thanksgiving dinner guests for smoking crack in her home without permission or offering to share.

>> Read more trending news

According to the Star Tribune, Anenia Marie Hare, 47, told police that she invited Edward Caliph, 69, to her apartment to enjoy a meal on the holiday last week. However, before they began eating, she “looked over and saw the victim lighting up a crack pipe," police said. Angry because Caliph didn’t ask her permission to do drugs in her home and because he didn’t invite her to participate, Hare grabbed an antenna and a butcher knife, police said.

>> On Rare.us: Thanksgiving Day horror: Community shocked by grisly findings at a pastor’s family home

Hare then stood in the doorway of her apartment in effort to appear intimidating and told her guest he wasn’t allowed to leave, police said. At that point, a frightened Caliph began yelling for help from neighbors, begging them to call the police, authorities said. In an attempt to escape, he broke a window with a vacuum cleaner, according to the police report.

According to what she told police, Hare grabbed him around his shoulders and fell on top of him as he tried to get the knife away from her. During the struggle, Caliph fell face down onto the ground and “started snoring," the police report said.

>> On Rare.us: A family is devastated after tragedy struck as they were in the middle of cooking Thanksgiving dinner

“I just grabbed him by the front and he went down,” Hare said, claiming she called 911 four times in regard to the incident, according to the police report. “To me, it just felt like I put him in a sleeper hold or something.”

Police arrived to find Caliph lying face down on the living room floor near the window he had broken, the New York Daily News reported. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. An autopsy determined he died from homicidal violence. Charged with second-degree murder, Hare is being held on $500,000 bail at the Hennepin County Jail.

Texas church shooting: Family who lost 9 files claim against Air Force, reports say

The Holcombe family, who lost nine members in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre, has accused the U.S. Air Force of negligence in connection with the Nov. 5 shooting and have filed a federal claim with the U.S. government.

>> Read more trending news

The San Antonio Express-News reported that the claim could be the first step in a lawsuit against the Air Force if the service denies responsibility for the attack, in which former Air Force member Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 people and injured 20 others.

Among the dead were nine members of the Holcombe family: Karla; Bryan; Crystal, who was pregnant; and five others.

Christopher Foster, a family friend, set up an online fundraising account shortly after the shooting to raise money for the surviving family members.

>> On Statesman.com: House panel to weigh bill expanding gun rights

“It’s going to take a lot of funds to cover eight funerals, lost wages, perhaps child/adult counseling, and who knows what else,” Foster said in a Facebook message at the time. “No matter what number the (fundraiser) reaches, it will never be enough. But everything helps.”

Kelley had been convicted of domestic violence while in the Air Force and was discharged from the service.

>> Texas church shooting: 8 relatives, pastor's daughter among victims of shooting

That conviction should have prevented him from owning, possessing or purchasing weapons, but the Air Force admitted shortly after the incident that the conviction was not reported to the proper authorities.

The Associated Press on Tuesday reported that the Air Force said its failure to report Kelley’s criminal history was part of a pattern of such lapses.

>> On Statesman.com: PHOTOS: Memorial service for shooting victims in Sutherland Springs on Nov. 6

The service cited failures in training and compliance and said they have taken actions to ensure such failures are prevented in the future.

Houston-based attorney Rob Ammons is representing the Holcombe family. Calls to his office by the American-Statesman were not immediately returned.

Reno shooter dead after opening fire from high-rise, police say

A gunman is dead after he opened fire Tuesday from a high-rise in Reno, Nevada, police said.

>> Click here or scroll down for more

>> Read more trending news 

Police: Kentucky man robs gas station armed with hand lotion

A Kentucky man is accused of robbing a gas station using an unusual weapon -- a tube of hand lotion. 

William Walls, 35, of Louisville, was arrested Sunday, four days after the alleged robbery, WDRB News reported. He is charged with first-degree robbery.

Police officials in West Buechel, a small city southeast of Louisville, said that a man walked into a Murphy USA station on Nov. 22 and, indicating he had a gun in his shirt, pointed it at the employee and demanded money. The clerk handed over the cash and the robber fled in a vehicle parked outside. 

The fleeing man dropped a sack containing what was assumed to be his gun. Police looked inside and instead found a tube of lotion. 

>> Read more trending news

Walls became a suspect in the case when a witness came forward and said he recognized him as the man who robbed the store, WDRB reported. Investigators said Walls confessed to committing the crime. 

Inmate with skull-face tattoo escapes work detail

Law enforcement officials in California are searching for an easily recognizable inmate who escaped a work detail Monday afternoon.

Corey Hughes, 27, disappeared around 1:30 p.m. Monday from the Interstate 5 area just east of San Francisco, according to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office

What makes Hughes so recognizable is a large skull-face tattoo on his face. The Sheriff’s Office released his mugshot in an effort to get the word out to the public. 

>> Read more trending news

Hughes, who was being housed on the county’s honor farm while serving a sentence on a weapons conviction, was scheduled to be released in February. A search team was scouring the area for Hughes.

Anyone with information about Hughes’ whereabouts is asked to contact deputies at 209-468-4400. 

Mother throws newborn son at father during fight

A Terrytown, Louisiana, mother was arrested Friday after police were contacted when a 3-week-old boy was taken to a hospital with a fractured skull.

NOLA.com reported that Heidy Rios was arguing with her boyfriend and the father of her son when she threw the baby at her boyfriend’s feet. According to a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office arrest report, the father said he had been arguing with Rios when she grabbed the newborn and threw him at his father’s feet, saying, “Take your (expletive) son.”

>> Read more trending news

The arrest report said that the boyfriend took the baby to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans on Nov. 23. NOLA.com reported that it was there that doctors found the newborn had a fracture on the right side of his skull. Authorities were called by the hospital to investigate the injury.

When taken into custody Friday, Rios said she did not know how the newborn got injured and that she was not holding him during the argument. Her story changed when a witness said she was holding the infant during the argument.

Rios is currently at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center and is charged with cruelty to a juvenile.

Georgia cop drank 10 beers, threw shoes at kids before Thanksgiving arrest, report says

A Cherokee County, Georgia, sheriff’s deputy drew his gun on a Roswell police officer on Thanksgiving when he responded to a domestic dispute at the officer’s Woodstock home, authorities said.

Chad Harris, a sergeant with the Roswell Police Department, was arrested early Thanksgiving morning and charged with simple battery, battery and two counts of cruelty to children. He was released from a Cherokee County jail on $4,500 bond and placed on administrative leave from the Roswell Police Department.

An incident report from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office reveals new details about the arrest. According to the report, Harris drank 10 beers, threw shoes at his children and left scratch marks on his wife’s neck.

>> On AJC.com: Thanksgiving thief steals tires, rims off car

Deputies arrived at Harris’ home in Woodstock at 1:41 a.m. on Nov. 23 after his son called 911, according to the report. When deputies arrived, they could hear two people arguing, “screams,” “bangs” and “thumps” coming from inside the home.

When the deputies approached to enter the home, the front door was flung open by a woman later identified as Harris’ wife, and “it looked as if (Harris) was pushing her through the front door,” according to the deputies’ report. A deputy wrote in the report that the “surprise” from the door being flung open coupled with the bangs and screams influenced the deputy to draw his weapon and aim at Harris.

>> Read more trending news 

The deputies told Harris to get on the ground, and they put him in handcuffs when he did, according to the report. This is when Harris told the deputies he was a sergeant within the Roswell Police Department.

The report notes that two victims, a 42-year-old and a 17-year-old, had visible injuries and were given medical attention. Harris told deputies he never touched his wife, but admitted to throwing the shoes.

According to the report, Harris told deputies he was a 15-year law enforcement veteran and that the arrest would “ruin his career.”

Mariah Woods: Photos released by FBI of possible missing NC 3-year-old debunked

UPDATE 11/29 10 a.m.: Law enforcement has stepped up the search for a North Carolina girl after she disappeared from her home.

Overnight, the FBI released new surveillance photos they said could be missing Onslow County 3-year-old, Mariah Woods, but those photos appear to be a dead end.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued for Mariah on Monday morning.

The Onslow County Sheriff's Office and the FBI released the surveillance images, which show a little girl walking with a woman Monday around 9:30 a.m. in the Walmart in Morehead City.

Investigators wanted the public's help identifying both of them, and it appeared WCTI has helped do just that.

WCTI spoke exclusively with Jetta Long Wednesday morning. She is a 23-year-old Newport woman who said the surveillance photos show her and her young daughter.

Long told WCTI she does not know the family of the missing girl and that she is frustrated that the photos "may have gotten the hopes of the family up."

Long's daughter was born with a shortened leg, so she understands how she could have been mistaken for Mariah.

Original story: The FBI is now involved in the search for a missing 3-year-old girl in Onslow County, North Carolina.

An Amber Alert was issued Monday for Mariah Kay Woods, who was last seen Sunday night when her mother put her to bed at their home on Dawson Cabin Road in Jacksonville.

>> Read more trending news 

The girl's mother, Kristy Woods, pleaded for her daughter's safe return on Monday night.

"Please, bring her back ... She's my baby, she's my everything,” Woods said at a news conference. “Just to be able to touch her and hold her and not let her go again. I'd give anything."

First responders spent Monday searching by air and on the ground.

“(Officials are) working everything that can be worked to find this little girl,” said Sheriff Hans Miller.

>> Watch the news report here

Four volunteer fire departments, the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and K-9 units, conducted a search of the wooded area behind the girl’s home as well as surrounding wooded areas, WCTI reported. They also used a helicopter and drones to aid in the search.

“We don’t know what happened. It’s entirely premature to try to determine what happened,” Miller said Monday.

Officials have interviewed both Woods’ mother and her live-in boyfriend and conducted a search of their home and vehicle, WCTI reported.

"I don't believe she would go out by herself, especially in the dark," said the girl’s grandmother, Anne Edwards. “She's a sweet child but she's shy with strangers. So, she wouldn't just go with a stranger."

Edwards said the 3-year-old struggles to get around on her own and wears leg braces for assistance.

"It's really tough because it's just like everybody says, 'I didn't believe this could happen to me,'" she said.

Investigators have asked people in the area to check their yards and sheds.

Woods is described as white and 2 feet 9 inches tall with brown hair and blue eyes. She weighs 30 pounds.

Authorities have not said who may have taken her and where they might be headed.

Anyone with information on Woods’s whereabouts is encouraged to call the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office immediately at (910) 455-3113, or to call 911.

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