3 Things To Expect When You Report Sexual Harassment At Work

Posted on: 26 September 2016

Being sexually harassed at the workplace that you have to go to every day is no one's idea of a good time, but that doesn't mean that reporting the harassment is easy or automatic. The truth is, reporting harassment is hard – victims often worry that they won't be believed or that they may be overreacting. Things get even more confusing when you do report the harassment and the result isn't anything like what you may expect to happen. Take a look at what you should expect from your employer when you report sexual harassment at your job.

The Harasser Probably Won't Be Fired

If you're expecting your employer to fire the person who has been harassing you, you are probably going to be disappointed. Depending on the laws in your state and the terms of their employee contract, they may not be able to fire the harasser immediately. And even if you're in a right-to-work state where employers can fire an employee at will, they probably aren't going to immediately let an otherwise good employee go because of one complaint. So don't expect the harasser to disappear from your workplace.

However, you should expect your employer to do something. They may warn the harasser or require them to undergo training about sexual harassment in the workplace. They may discipline the harasser or transfer them or you so that you don't work closely together anymore. (Keep in mind that you can't be demoted for reporting harassment – if your employer transfers you, it should be to an equivalent position in the company, at the same rate of pay.) You may not see exactly what happens – your employer may not tell you how they disciplined the harasser – but they should do something to make the harassment stop.

The Harasser May Know You Reported Them

You probably aren't thrilled with the idea of your harasser knowing that you reported their behavior, and you may even ask your boss to keep your report confidential. And your employer will probably agree to keep your report confidential. But the odds are good that your harasser is going to find out that you made the report anyway.

Once you report sexual harassment, your employer is going to have to do an investigation. That means that they'll need to interview your harasser, as well as anyone you've named as a witness. Unless this person is harassing several other employees, it's probably going to be obvious who made the complaint. It's important not to let this stop you from making a complaint if it's called for. You're letting the harasser know that you won't be intimidated into allowing their behavior to continue. That alone might be enough to end the behavior – like bullies, some harassers will back down when confronted. However, if you have any concerns for your safety, it's important to understand that it's unlikely that your identity will be completely protected, so you should definitely take extra precautions once you make a complaint.

You May Have To Make Multiple Reports

Unfortunately, you may not be able to report the harassment once and be done with it. If the harassment continues, you'll need to keep reporting it. You may also have to go up the chain of command – if you report the issue to your immediate supervisor and nothing changes, then you may need to go to someone higher up to get a resolution. It may be distressing to keep telling your story, but doing so is the most effective way to get it to stop.

Make sure that you document every instance of harassment – include the time, date, place, details of the encounter, and the names of any possible witnesses. Put each complaint you make into writing, and save a copy for your own records. While you usually can't sue for one instance of harassment, especially if the company handles it properly, a company that fails to protect its employees from harassment is vulnerable to a lawsuit. Should you find yourself in a position to sue, your documented complaints will be the best evidence that harassment continued to occur after you reported it to your superiors.

Knowing what to expect when you report can help you gather the courage to go through with making a complaint. Remember, if your employer fails to take action, an experienced sexual harassment lawyer can help you fight for your right to a harassment-free workplace. For more information, contact local professionals like Davis George Mook.


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