As an employee, you have legal rights that should be protected. This includes the right to a safe workplace free of sexual harassment.
When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, it can be traumatic. It is understandable that it may be difficult to come forward and report it. When you decide to do so, it is important to understand how to file a complaint in the most effective way.
Even before a formal complaint or lawsuit is filed, there are steps you can take if you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work. Although individual situations may vary, this list can provide a good starting point:
- Document all incidents – Write down the date, time and place for any related instances of sexual harassment, as well as if any witnesses were present. This can include “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, where you are offered incentive if you agree or threatened with discipline if you don’t comply, and “hostile environment” harassment, where you are being harassed due to your gender. Keep these notes in a safe place away from the workplace.
- Gather and preserve evidence – Keep copies of emails, texts, notes, photos and other related communication between you and the harasser. Print everything out so you don’t lose anything and keep this evidence in a safe place outside of work.
- Report the harassment to your employer – Before you can file an official complaint or lawsuit, you need to report the sexual harassment to your employer. This gives them a chance to remedy the situation internally. Report according to your company’s sexual harassment policy, if they have one. Be sure to get the report in writing, either as the official report or as a follow-up to a verbal discussion
It is also helpful to research and contact potential lawyers. In most cases, it is worthwhile to discuss your situation with someone who understands and advocates for employee rights. An experienced employment law attorney can advise you of your options and help you take the next steps.