Documenting Sexual Harassment at Work
In some cases, unlawful sexual harassment is a single traumatizing event involving a supervisor or boss. However, in most situations, sexual harassment consists of multiple incidents that together, create a hostile work environment. Because these incidents can happen over time, many people may not be able to provide evidence of the exact dates and times the harassment occurred, as well as exactly what offensive conduct happened on which date. For this reason, if you believe you are the victim of ongoing sexual harassment at work, it is always wise to document everything that happens. You should also discuss your situation with an experienced California sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible.
What Should You Document?
As soon as something that resembles sexual harassment occurs, you should make a record of the incident. It may never happen again, though if it does, you should have records of every instance, including the first one. Even if you’re unsure whether the remark or action constitutes harassment, it is a good idea to document what happened. Sexual harassment often begins with one or two isolated comments but can quickly escalate. Your records can demonstrate the exact evolution of the behavior that created a hostile work environment.
Even as a couple of days pass, details of disturbing events can become fuzzy. Your mind might even downplay an event to protect you emotionally. You may doubt whether you really should have been as offended as you felt at the time. In most cases, your feelings were likely completely justified. It is critical to write down information about an incident as soon as you can after it happens to preserve an accurate version of exactly what occurred.
As you document, it is better to write down more details than necessary than too few. Something that you may think was insignificant may be very important to a harassment case. The following are some things you should document:
• Sexual comments, remarks, or conversations that offended you
• Any unwanted touching or contact
• Sexually-charged emails or messages (it is also wise to print out a hard copy to include in your records if you can)
• Any other sexual incidents in your place of work
If someone has sexually offensive pictures displayed, try to take a picture with your phone if you believe it is safe to do so.
Keep Documenting After Filing a Complaint
As soon as you are offended by sexually offensive behavior by a co-worker, you should report what happened to a supervisor, HR department, or another appropriate channel. Hopefully, your employer will take steps to put a stop to the behavior as soon as possible. However, this does not always happen, and if sexual harassment continues after you make a complaint, you may have important legal rights.
It’s important to keep documenting everything even if you think your employer is aware of the harassment. Record every person who you complained to, including the time and date of the complaint, exactly what you told them, and their response to you. Did they downplay your concerns? Did they promise to take action to help you? This is all important if the harassment continues.
Documentation of what happened and how it made you feel can help protect your rights. If you’re concerned about a hostile work environment, contact an attorney who can advise you of your options and help you through the legal process.