Many people who face sexual harassment in their workplace are reticent to report it. Even though there may be clear reporting policies in the corporate handbook, these employees still worry about the potential for retaliation or inaction on the part of their company. Unfortunately, they have good reason to feel concerned.
When someone in a position of authority abuses that position to sexually harass another employee or intentionally overlooks a hostile environment, their victims may not feel comfortable speaking up. Worries that their boss may hear about the report or concerns that someone in the hierarchy is one of the harassers are common reasons why people do not come forward when experiencing sexual harassment.
However, staying quiet only empowers the people who abused their position to continue doing so. You shouldn’t have to put up with harassment as part of your job.
Build a strong case before going to human resources or management
Reporting sexual harassment is not as easy as it may seem. In many cases, it is the victim’s word against the word of the person or people engaging in harassment. Especially when you are outnumbered, it is easy to feel like no one will take your allegation seriously.
Keeping a written record of what you experience at work can help substantiate your claims. It may also help you connect with others who have witnessed some of these incidents.
When you go to report the issue in the manner outlined in your company’s policy, you should provide them with the dates, times, names of people involved and what happened for each incident. The sooner after you experience something that you report it, the better.
However, just because you didn’t come forward immediately doesn’t mean that your company should dismiss your complaints. Be sure to document every effort you make to alert your company to what you have been experiencing, in case they choose to retaliate against you.
Retaliation varies, but it is always illegal
Federal law protects those who come forward with allegations of sexual harassment from retaliation by their employers. Of course, retaliation is a vague term, and employers often engage in retaliatory punishments while attempting to disguise their actions.
For example, you may find that you suddenly start receiving worse performance reviews, despite maintaining the same level of excellence in your job. Your manager could start assigning you the worst shifts, withholding leads or other information you need or even cutting your hours or pay. In some cases, people who report sexual harassment get fired, and the person who harasses them remains in their position.
When an employer retaliates against you for reporting harassment, you have a legal right to stand up for yourself.