When you feel intimidated or otherwise uneasy at work, it may not be obvious that you are in a hostile work environment. However, learning more about what qualifies as one can help you better understand the difficulties you face and how to deal with them.

According to the Legal Dictionary, situations that create a hostile work environment happen when someone acts in an offensive or otherwise intimidating way that makes you feel uncomfortable. It can come from a boss, a coworker, or any other person you interact with regularly. Many people may not be aware of the laws in place to help you deal with this situation. The first step you should take is to document each time you talk to the person harassing you or your immediate supervisor. Items such as notes, texts, emails, gifts, or other communications are important for future reference.

If the behavior does not stop, then your next course of action should be to report this person to your supervisor. If, once again, there is no change in the situation, you should file an official complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC has laws related to a hostile work environment, which detail what elements make up a case. For example, the acts must be continuous and disruptive enough to make it hard to work in that company. Being able to support this claim with a backlog of proof will help you in court.

Sexual harassment is a stressful situation, but there are ways to protect yourself. Reading more about what choices you have can be helpful for anyone experiencing a hostile work environment.