Unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching and jokes that are sexual in nature are just a few examples of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a major issue for workers across the country and it is something that employers need to pay attention to.
Sexual harassment is not limited to the person being harassed, rather anyone who sees it or encounters it in the workplace can file a complaint. Sexual harassment can be overt, with someone harassing another employee openly and publicly, or it can be discreet as someone touches a coworker inappropriately or says inappropriate things when they are alone.
The challenge with reporting sexual harassment is twofold: It can be stressful to file a report because you have to outline uncomfortable situations to your supervisor and human resources, and you also have to provide documentation to support the claim. Though sexual harassment claims should always be taken seriously, if the problem is widespread in a company then the employee must be able to provide evidence so that the behavior is shut down.
If the company is unwilling to act on the harassment, then the employee can file a complaint with federal, state and local labor authorities or file a private lawsuit against the company.
When To Document
Gathering evidence of sexual harassment should begin immediately. You should note everything that happens so that there is a record of the incidents that can be presented in your report.
It doesn’t matter how big or small the incidents of harassment are. Document everything. The problem with sexual harassment is that it can start small and then spiral out of control so you never know when a casual offhand remark might turn into something bigger.
Never wait to document an incident. Do it as soon as you possibly can so that you can keep track of every detail because you never know when a little detail might come in handy.
For example, if you make note of the exact time then your supervisor could look at security camera footage to prove that it took place, and this is especially important if the person behind the harassment denies being there. When it comes to documenting sexual harassment, every detail counts.
What To Document
As soon as an incident of sexual harassment takes place, note the day, time and location when it happened. Include every detail. You should note who was involved, what was said or done and how long the incident lasted. If the incident involved inappropriate touching, make sure you document what you (or the victim) was wearing, where the touching took place and the areas of the body involved.
Be sure to document how you felt after the incident. Even if you had to laugh it off when the incidents take place in a group, you should still make a note of what you were actually thinking. If you tell the person to stop and the behavior persists, document it and outline how it makes you feel that your wishes have not been respected.
When documenting your feelings and reactions, also be sure to note how this unwanted behavior impacts your ability to do your job. In many cases, victims are so concerned about the behavior happening again that it impacts job performance, and you want to be sure that there is no question that the harassment is hindering your ability to work.
Other Important Documents
In addition to documenting every incident of sexual harassment, you should also gather evidence that supports your value as an employee. You should have copies of your work evaluations, information about promotions you have been or are being considered for and anything else that demonstrates your value as an employee.
It might seem strange to gather this information but this will help you should you find yourself in a situation where you are facing retaliation from your employers for filing a report, or you might even be facing retaliation as a threat to keep you from reporting the situation. Retaliation can include being denied promotions, having hours or pay cut and even loss of a job. You need to protect yourself by demonstrating that you are a model employee and that your employer has threatened your job because you have filed a complaint.
Lastly, make sure you speak to anyone who witnessed the incidents. Many cases of sexual harassment take place in private, but even if someone observes you going into a room with your harasser it can help to have that person testify to your reaction upon leaving the room.
Just remember, gathering evidence is key so every bit of information can be crucial.
How an Employment Lawyer Can Help
If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, there are very important steps to take in order to ensure that you have sufficient evidence and documentation. You can speak with an employment lawyer as soon as the first incident occurs to determine the best strategy.
An employment lawyer can help you gather evidence and documentation and also determine who you need to speak with to file your complaint. Having an attorney can be particularly helpful when your supervisor is involved in the sexual harassment claim.
An attorney can help prepare you for the difficult conversations you will have, as well as to help you proceed with formal complaints to federal, state and local agencies. Fill out the Free Evaluation Form to get your claim started today.