Eric Bachman recently caught up with Lifehacker to explore the various options to effectively report sex harassment at work.
Why harassment is often not reported
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), only about 30% of employees who are harassed at work actually report it to someone at work. “In other words, based on those studies,” the EEOC continued, “approximately 70% of individuals who experienced harassment never even talked with a supervisor, manager, or union representative about the harassing conduct.”
This begs the question then, “why don’t they report harassment?” Lifehacker’s Leigh Anderson points out this may happen, “for a bunch of reasons: they didn’t think anyone would believe them, or they didn’t think it was “bad enough” to warrant an HR complaint, or they believed that speaking out would torpedo their career.”
Anderson adds to this list of reasons the further wrinkle that:
of all the people who’ve ever been harassed in the world, there are certainly a good number of people who simply didn’t know how to report—what steps to take, how to document, and to whom they should direct their grievances.
Different options to report harassment
The method you choose to complain about the harassment will depend on different factors, including: how severe was the conduct; were there any witnesses; do you work for a private company or the government; etc.
This spectrum of possible reporting actions includes the following (by no means exhaustive) options:
- tell the person harassing you to stop
- talk with a trusted mentor or supervisor about the harassment
- follow your employer’s policies on how to report harassment
- contact an employment discrimination/sexual harassment lawyer
- file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC
- litigate your claim in court
If you escalate your complaint within your company, the best practice is to put your complaint in writing and describe the harassment in detail.
Likewise, keep your notes of what happened on your personal (not work) computer and make clear you are taking the notes in anticipation of litigation. Both of these precautions should help minimize the risk that you will have to turn over these notes to the employer if your case is litigated in court (or arbitration).
Note: be careful about making video or audio recordings at work since certain states make it illegal to do so unless you get the consent of the person being recorded.
Hiring a proven and effective advocate is critical to obtaining the maximum recovery in a sexual harassment case. Eric Bachman, Chair of the Firm’s Discrimination Practice, has substantial experience litigating precedent-setting individual and class action discrimination cases. His wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain. Having served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as lead or co-counsel in numerous jury trials, Bachman is trial-tested and ready to fight for you to obtain the relief that you deserve.
Bachman writes frequently on topics related to promotion discrimination, harassment, and other employment discrimination issues at the Glass Ceiling Discrimination Blog., which the ABA Journal recently named a top legal blog.
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