The media is exploding with accusations of sexual harassment. The brave women who outed movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and made public knowledge of his decades-long history of misconduct have given hundreds of other women (and some men, too) the courage to finally speak out about what they have experienced.
But you’re not a celebrity and you don’t have the media to do your reporting for you. The reality is this – when workplace sexual harassment occurs it is the victims themselves who must report it directly to their employers.
If you’re reading this article there’s a pretty good possibility that you’re experiencing workplace sexual harassment right now. And your harassment could be an every day of the week thing. If you’re nervous about reporting, your concerns are valid. Will your workmates, family, or friends lose respect for you? Will your harasser retaliate? Will you lose your job?
Despite your concerns you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Why? Because an experienced workplace sexual harassment attorney will help you get through the process of reporting the harassment and will make sure you do it correctly. This can be crucial to your ultimate claim.
Guidance for Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim
OK, if you’re not ready for an attorney, I get it. Perhaps you’re not sure you actually have a case. But let me tell you this – if you think you have a case then there’s a real possibility that you do. And a skilled attorney can help you confidentially make that determination. Most importantly, if you do nothing the harassment will likely continue and possibly escalate.
If you’re still not ready to call an attorney but want to try to make the harassment stop, let’s go to Plan B. As an attorney who specializes in workplace sexual harassment, I want to give you some important guidance on how to go forward with your claim.
First, you must report the harassment to your employer now – like right away – tomorrow! When your employer is notified of the harassment he or she is obligated to take action to protect their employees from future harassment. If your employer does nothing or can’t stop the harassment, then he or she can, and likely will, be held liable in court!
But if you never report your harassment, then your employer can avoid being held liable by simply stating that the company knew nothing about it. That will enable your harasser to keep tormenting you and other victims, making all of your lives miserable. For the foreseeable future.
Here’s how to file your complaint.
How to Report Workplace Sexual Harassment, Step by Step
Step 1: Write everything down!
First, document every piece of evidence related to the inappropriate conduct prior to filing your workplace sexual harassment complaint. Prepare notes that detail all offensive comments and bad conduct that you can remember, the dates and times they took place, and the names of everyone who witnessed them.
You may not recall all the exact details, especially if the harassment has been going on for a long period of time. That’s okay. But try to be as specific as possible. In addition, be sure to preserve all digital records such as pictures and/or emails by forwarding them to your personal email account and printing hard copies, too.
Step 2: Become familiar with your company’s policies on complaints.
Most employers have policies and procedures that have been established to identify and report harassment and these are laid out in an employee handbook. Familiarize yourself with the policies and follow them to the best of your ability.
If your company’s policy is confusing, if it’s unclear, if you can’t find it, or if your company doesn’t have an employee handbook, report your concerns directly to someone in management or human resources. If you’re reporting to a manager, it’s best if that person has supervisory authority over your harasser – in other words, his or her boss.
Step 3: Make your complaint in writing.
Once you know where to direct your complaint, compose a short letter or email that specifically states you are experiencing workplace sexual harassment. The law protects employees from all types of discrimination – age, race, disability, religious, ethnic, national origin, etc. – so it’s important to specify that the harassment is sexual. If you are in any way retaliated against you will have additional claims available to you that are even stronger than your initial workplace sexual harassment claim.
Make and keep copies of all documents including your initial complaint and all other related correspondence. Keep notes on every subsequent conversation about your complaint including dates, times, attendees, and summaries of discussions.
Step 4: Offer to cooperate in the investigation.
Let your employer know that you are prepared to provide details and otherwise cooperate with any investigation into your complaint.
Step 5: Ask for confidentiality.
To limit the chances of retaliation, request that your employer keep your complaint confidential. It’s important to be aware, however, that this request may not be honored.
Step 6: Follow up.
Within a day or two of submitting your complaint, your employer should at least acknowledge that it was received and provide some basic information as to what will be done in response. If you don’t receive a response or if you are concerned that your employer isn’t taking your concerns seriously, ask when you can expect to get a response.
I encourage my workplace sexual harassment clients to keep a journal of day-to-day events after the formal complaint has been delivered. Retaliation, which is key in these claims, can take many forms – being fired, being denied a promotion, being ostracized by co-workers or even management, being written up or attacked about your otherwise good job performance, and so on. Because retaliation is not always obvious but is cumulative and part of a pattern, a journal is a great way to preserve and track events to form the circumstantial evidence of retaliation.
Step 7: Do not discuss your complaint with co-workers except if absolutely necessary.
While it may be beneficial to know if the same harasser has victimized others, there are benefits to keeping your complaint as confidential as possible. Most notably, confidentiality will limit the stress you may experience by being the subject of rumors at work. This is another area where an attorney will provide guidance.
Do You Still Need an Attorney If You’ve Already Reported the Sexual Harassment?
If you’re not satisfied with your employer’s response after you file your complaint, if the harassment continues, or if you believe you are being retaliated against, the importance of hiring counsel becomes imminent. An experienced attorney can advise you at this crucial stage about your claim’s valuation, its direction, and perhaps most importantly, its statute of limitations*, which is the legal time limitation for going forward with your claim in court.
My firm has extensive experience in representing victims of workplace sexual harassment and we are honored that so many have selected us to hear their stories and evaluate their claims. We understand that you may be scared, embarrassed, or feel you are not (or won’t be) believed. We can help you just by listening and explaining your rights. Call us for a free consultation.
Remember, the law (and we) are on your side.
Contact Us : 859-535-0155
*Note: If you live or work in Kentucky, you should know that Kentucky has one of the better statute of limitations for sexual harassment cases in the country. Victims have five years to bring sexual harassment claims. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can provide the details of the statute as it applies to your claim.
Our sexual harassment attorneys have significant experience and success in litigating federal and state employment claims in both Kentucky and Ohio, including claims of discrimination and harassment due to gender, race, age, religion, and national origin based on the following state and federal laws:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KRS 344, et seq.)
- The Ohio Civil Rights Act (ORC 4112)
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- Contract issues including Severance, Non-Compete and Confidentiality Agreements