If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace the following are steps you need to take. Sexual harassment at work is illegal. The majority of sexual harassment is never reported. Procedures for reporting are harrowing and difficult to navigate. Some people cannot afford to lose their jobs or benefits, and most people can not afford to take legal action. People who work as freelancers have insufficient resources to report cases If you are considering legal action here is what you need to know.
Everyone has to choose what feels right for them and publicly reporting doesn’t feel comfortable for all. However, it will help others if you can at the very least document and name what happened to you, so if there is pattern, future reports will be better legitimized.
The first rule is
Document the harassment. It is important for use as evidence in a case or complaint.
- Photograph and keep copies of any offensive material at the workplace.
- Keep a journal with detailed information on instances of sexual harassment.
- Tell other people, including personal friends and co-workers if possible. Obtain copies of your work records and keep these copies at home
- Keep copies of all written documents and records at home
Speak directly to the person harassing you, (only if you feel safe)
- Explain what behavior is bothering you. Name the behavior and be specific.
- Tell the harasser that their attention or behavior is bothering you.
- Ask the harasser to stop the behavior.
Learn your employer’s policy and follow it. If you do not file a complaint following company procedures, management will argue they were not given a chance to remedy it. Keep copies of everything.
Prepare to be disbelieved. Human Resources ultimately exists to protect the employer. Small businesses may not have an HR department, and if you work for a company with less 15 employees, you may not be protected by Federal Law. Check your state and local laws to see if they offer any protection. Find allies in the workplace who will stand with you. Do not be surprised when co-workers decide to remain silent.
Prepare for retaliation. 75% of people reporting sexual harassment face some retaliation. Including being fired. Again document everything.
Work with an attorney. Individuals are three times more likely to have their case dismissed. You can seek legal representation with public interest law firms and non-profit organizations. Contact legal clinics in law schools and through your state bar association.
Team up with other victims. Cases with more than one victim are more likely to be successful in court.
Prepare to be attacked in and out of court; there is no way to avoid this. Make sure you have a strong support network.
Settlement agreements. Settlements with private employers often have confidentiality agreements, and those agreements keep your experience and the experiences of any other victims secret and your harasser’s actions hidden. No one who is victimized is obligated to speak out, but if you can afford to do so —Do it.
Prepare for a realistic outcome. 50% of employment discrimination cases end in a settlement. Only 6% of cases filed in federal court go to trial, and about a third of those result in a victory for the plaintiff.
Nielsen, Laura Beth, and Ellen Berrey. “How to File a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit – Motto.”Motto.time.com, Motto.time.com, 17 Oct. 2017, motto.time.com/4985806/how-to-file-sexual-harassment-lawsuit/.