What to Know Before Reporting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Jun 18, 2020 | From The CEO

Every employee just wants to work in a healthy and safe environment. We spend 8-10 hours daily working outside our home, which makes our workplace our second home. We make friends at work which makes it easier for us to get through the hectic and toxic day. But what if your second home doesn’t feel safe anymore? 

Sexual Harassment is a known case everywhere and your workplace is not an exception. Since the Civil Rights Act 1967, sexual harassment has been prohibited in all workplaces. Despite this, there are still a lot of cases of harassment every year. Sexual harassment knows no gender. This applies either to the victim or the harasser. You may get harassed by your manager, a colleague, a client and even the owner of the company. Any kind of harassment should be stopped; because if neglected, it might cause more harm to the victim. Prolonged cases that are not taken care of results in more unpleasant outcomes. People who experience this usually become incompetent at work due to the trauma caused by the harassment. That is why reporting a sexual harassment complaint is a serious matter. Who would ever want to make this kind of report in their entire career life, right? Those who experienced this may not even think of the moment that this could happen to them. But what if you are one of those unfortunate employees? How can you deal with it? How can you make it stop? How will you seek help?  What is the right thing to do?

  Here are the things you need to know before you report a sexual harassment complaint:

  • Know your company’s policy regarding sexual harassment. Familiarize yourself with all the rules and regulations that will help you fully understand the company’s policy about it. It really is true that knowledge is power. You can’t just do whatever you think you need to do without knowing how to do it properly. For you to execute your plan of reporting a sexual  harassment case; you must be aware of all the processes and consequences. Companies have a written policy that forbids any kind of harassment in the workplace. This policy includes the step-by-step procedure on how to report a harassment case. Most companies, especially the big ones give their employees different options on how to report harassment. They will let you choose if you want to file it first with your supervisor, through email, phone, and directly to Human Resources. Also, make sure to have copies of all your company’s policies regarding sexual harassment. Make several copies and save it in your personal drive. Keep those information in your house and not in your workplace. This is to ensure that you have the written company harassment policy in case that all of a sudden you might get terminated. Since you are going to be in a battle,  it’s better to be prepared than sorry.  
  • Harassment, no matter how it is done, is never okay and will never be acceptable. Often times, sexual harassment is misunderstood by many. An employee might feel harassed yet quite uncertain if they can consider the act as “ sexual harassment “.  Now the question is, how to know? Well, sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. Anything that includes unwanted sexual advances, acts of physical, verbal, sexual nature, and favors that lead to sexual advances. But, what if you felt harassed but can’t consider it in a sexual manner? 

Sexual harassment does not need to be in a sexual manner to consider it as a valid sexual harassment. When a co-worker said some offensive remarks about someone’s gender identity, it can be counted as a sexual harassment act. An example is teasing someone for being gay. This is a very foul gesture and is totally mean. Another example is when a person makes offensive comments about another person on how they should act. Let’s say a male employee makes some unwelcome remarks about how his co-worker should behave since she is already a mother. Here is an example: “ Why do you still chose to work? You are already a mother;  aren’t you supposed to be just home taking care of your husband and child?” This kind of remarks is considered a sexual harassment. It is unwanted and a stereotypical kind of comment that clearly discriminates against women. If anyone in your workplace makes you feel violated in any way; don’t hesitate to speak out.  

The first defense that you can do is to make your harasser know that you are aware of his actions. Tell them to stop. Make it very clear to them that you are against what they are doing.  Whether a co-worker makes you feel harassed by a tactless comment; or even an employee who you feel is making sexual advances towards you. Making a vivid line between you and the harasser will give them a message on how you dislike their behavior. Let them know that their actions are making you uncomfortable and bothered. If they still persist. You must ask for help already.

  • Talk to your supervisor about it. It is a standard procedure in every company. Your one-up should be the first one to know about what happened in order to guide you on what action you should do. Confessing to your supervisor may be hard but you need to have someone to back you up especially if it is time to go and file a report with the Human Resources. Now, let us say that you already told your supervisor about the incident and both of you think that you really need to file a report about it. Here are the things that you should do first before you file it:
  1. Make detailed documentation of evidence – In any situation, the evidence is always the key to reveal the truth. It is best that you document everything using your personal email account. Make sure not to use your company’s email because your harasser might have the power to access it. Using your own personal email outside work will give you the security that no one can change the information that you have no matter what. Emails have time stamps and a full record on when and what time you wrote it. Write in detail everything about the harassment. The day, time and place. Even who you are with, what you are wearing, and who witnessed it if there are. Describe how you feel about the incident as well as the reaction of the witness/witnesses. Make the documentation as soon as you can. It is most advisable that you write down everything when it is still fresh. Also, if you write it the same day; the date stamp will have a big impact to make your sexual harassment report more accurate. Moreover, if ever that you need to pursue it in court; your detailed documentation will be so hard to deny. 

The best time to do it is once you are not in the work premises. Make sure that no one will see that you are documenting the harassment. It is safer for you not to tell it to anyone involved and even to those who are not involved. Keep everything confidential until you are able to file a report. 

  1. Understand what Human Resources are for – Sure, we all know that HR is where an employee would run in case something bad happened inside a workplace. But you need to understand that HR is not mainly there just to protect the employees. Most of all,  their job is to secure the company and keep it at peace. Though there are really some HRs that genuinely care for their employees; know that their loyalty still lies on their employer. Hence, before you make a move on filing a harassment case, you must be prepared on what might happen. Think of this scenario: You went to HR to report a sexual harassment complaint against your manager. Upon receiving your complaint, HR will make an investigation. They will likely call both parties (you, the complainant, and your harasser) to ask questions as part of the investigation. Here is where all of your evidence is needed. Emails, text messages,  call logs and witnesses. These evidence are vital to strengthen your complaint. Your statement’s consistency and all of the proofs you presented are the backbone of your sexual harassment complain. Once the HR hearing is done, that is when they need to decide whose party is worth defending. The thing is, there’s no accurate way to know who will get the HR’s support in the end. It will always depend on how you manage and execute your complaint. If you are confident, then that’s good. But always, prepare for the worst.
  • The company will do its best to keep the details of the investigation as confidential as possible. It is just normal for the company to ensure the peace inside your workplace to avoid panic. Spreading the news will do no good to the company. Hence, keeping the investigation low key is always their goal. However, other people in your workplace may need to know certain names and details .

When all this is said and done, (you already gathered evidence and understood how you will work with the HR about the incident/s) then you can file the complaint. It may be scary to admit harassment has taken place, but know that once you’ve hit the ping on a harasser, you stop the possible harassment he has done or might do to others (not just you) in the future.

Should you have any concerns or suggestions, do contact us. Check out the available trainings we have regarding Sexual Harassment and Violence In The Workplace.