What is the safest way to report sexual harassment? Unfortunately, even with rising movements like #MeToo, we still lack clear-cut methods for reporting and ending sexual abuse at the office. We’ve prepared some tips to show you what needs to be done if you’re being sexually harassed in the workplace.
Note that federal law outlines two kinds of workplace sexual harassment. Other behaviors that do not contend with the legal definitions can still breach your company’s policy.
Firstly, we have quid pro quo cases where your employment is dependent on you fulfilling certain sexual favors. For example, “I’ll give you a raise if you go out with me.” Then, there is hostile work environment harassment. It mostly consists of inappropriate behaviors. That includes inappropriate or suggestive touching, texting, or the sharing of explicit content (videos or photos).
For any type of harassment, you have to document as many details as you can. That includes the time of the harassment, the location, along with what happened during the actual confrontation. Remember if there were any witnesses or gather evidence by taking screenshots of emails, photos, texts, or similar. Additionally, gather any job performance and productivity records for evidence.
What’s more, always make sure to back up this data on a safe (home) computer that only you have access to. If you want to document or record the abuse while it occurs, keep in mind that not all state laws allow you to do that.
Assess the Situation
Sexual abuse can be traumatizing, but you should try to take a step back and keep a cool head. You should assess the following.
What Result Do You Want?
Consider what you actually want to accomplish. Do you want to expose your harasser? Or do you want the harassment to end by filing a charge? Sometimes, employees can ask to move to a new position. When you think about your desired result, you’ll have a better idea of how to proceed.
How Seriously Does Your Company Take Sexual Harassment?
Harassment mainly occurs in companies where bad behavior is encouraged. In a permissive work culture, employees are also less likely to speak out. In most cases, they are less satisfied with the result. Yet, if your company has a clear policy against harassment, it’s more likely that the higher-ups will deal with it effectively.
What Does Your Company Policy Say?
Before you speak out, you need to know your company policy. Most companies should have set procedures for reporting harassment. Try to memorize the guidelines and get familiar with the procedure.
Do You Have an N.D.A.?
Think back to when you signed your contract. If you signed an N.D.A., you could face legal consequences if you speak out in public against your employer. Most harassers know this, and they could use your N.D.A. against you.
What Are Your Sources of Support?
You should consider all of your channels of support since harassment can take a major financial and emotional toll. Consider whether or not your friends or family members can offer support.
Try to understand that only you can get the ball rolling. You can attempt the following options.
Stay the Course
A lot of women are afraid of reporting any type of harassment due to retaliation or pushback. If you want to wait things out, don’t stop documenting the harassment. If you choose to speak out when you feel comfortable, you’ll have more evidence.
Tell the Harasser to Stop
Some studies find that a direct confrontation could terminate the harassment. You could talk to the harasser and tell them about the behaviors that are bothering you. That way, you also have the legal advantage.
If you believe that your harasser has mistreated others at work, you could build solidarity. Create a support group with the other victims. If you choose to pursue the harassment legally, you will have a stronger case.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you have no plans of filing a lawsuit, a talk with a lawyer can still be helpful. The lawyer can instruct you on key employment or harassment laws. This could narrow down your range of options and give you some ideas on how to proceed.
Make a Claim
Before you make a claim, you should consider the following.
Follow Your Company’s Procedures (If They Exist)
As mentioned, you need to know your company’s rules. This will show that you are prepared and serious. One tip would be to write an account of the case in as much detail as possible. If you send the report to your supervisors or human resources, they will have your first-hand account along with an accurate record of the date and time of when you made the claim.
Consider Going to a Senior Leader or Human Resources
If you are being harassed by a company leader, you could file a complaint with another senior leader or with H.R. It’s not always easy to make a claim, especially if the person harassing you is a higher-up who can simply erase your report.
Another way would be to reach out to E.E.O.C (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). This federal agency could address your harassment complaint quickly.
The #MeToo movement was started mainly by victims who spoke out against their harassers online. That includes Susan Fowler along with multiple victims of Harvey Weinstein. Yet, as we’ve said, you need to be aware of your company policy. If you ignore your N.D.A. or other policy rules, your company could sue you for going public. If you still decide to continue, just be aware of the risks and costs associated with defamation lawsuits.
Finally, it takes strength, patience, and resources to speak out against sexual harassment. Follow our tips and good luck!