What to do if you are feeling Sexually Harassed at Work — Part I: Reporting Harassment

What should an employee do if she is feeling sexually harassed at work. Many people are concerned that they will be seen as complainers, others are afraid of retaliation, and still others do not believe that there is anything that they can do about it. Victims of sexual harassment often wait until the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back before taking action at all. It is important to be proactive because it takes time to deal with the situation.

The very short answer is: call an attorney immediately. Do not wait; do not let the pain, frustration and anger build. AND DO NOT QUIT. You will have all kinds of concerns about what will happen if you take certain actions and how to best proceed. We will be producing a series of blogs that are intended to address what to do if you believe you are being sexually harassed at work. Each situation is different, however, and this blog is not intended as legal advice as to a particular situation. A consultation with a lawyer will give you the opportunity to explore the issues related to your particular situation.

Although sexual harassment is something we would like to forget, you want to carefully document the harassment itself. Make sure you include in your own notes specific dates, and times if possible.   You are keeping these records in preparation for potential litigation. Therefore, even though you do not yet have an attorney, you are effectively preparing them for an attorney to review. Write at the top of each page of your notes: “PRIVILEGED MATERIAL PREPARED IN ANTICIPATION OF LITIGATION.” This will give your attorney the opportunity to keep these notes confidential when the time comes. The next step is to report the harassment. You should consider consulting with an attorney before making a report of harassment.

Generally, under the law, in order to have a cause of action in court, you are going to have to report the sexual harassment and give your employer a chance to fix the problem. To do this, consult your employee handbook. It will often tell you who to report harassment and discrimination to. Recognize that when you make a report, the employer is going to have to investigate and this probably means talking to the harasser. Realistically, the employer cannot solve the problem without talking to the harasser and perhaps taking action.

Generally the complaint should be done both orally and in writing. Second, when you make the complaint, you want to use the words “sexual harassment”. It is important to be clear to the Company because complaints of harassment generally are often simply dismissed as too vague.

Reporting sexual harassment is the initial step in the process. Do not wait for the harassment to get so bad that you cannot stay another day. Often properly reporting sexual harassment provides a mechanism for resolving the problem. But seldom is the problem solved overnight. This is often a process and further steps are often required. This too can take time.

If you feel that you have been a victim of sexual harassment, contact Maduff & Maduff. Our attorneys have been specializing in discrimination, wage and overtime theft, and civil rights for more than 20 years. Contact us with your employment legal concerns today.