How do you document sexual harassment on the job?
It’s very rare for one incident alone to give rise to a sexual harassment claim—most are based on numerous small incidents instead. But how do you document what’s happening when there’s often no one around but you and your harasser to see?
Keep a sexual harassment journal. Since it’s hard to tell what might end up being important down the line, document as much as possible:
— Include any offensive remarks and the context surrounding them if they aren’t clearly sexual.
— Write down any sexual or unwanted physical contact—like being forced to either slide past your harasser in order to get through the doorway so that your body brushes his or hers or stand there and be late for work after a break or lunch.
— Print out copies of any notes, letters, signs, memes or emails you receive that are offensive in nature.
— If someone does witness an act of harassment, write down his or her name, so that you know who you may have to subpoena for testimony later.
— Keep track of any complaints that you’ve made about the treatment, including the name and title of the person who took the complaint, the date and his or her response. Note down any proof that you provided him or her at the time. Also include your attempts to stop the harassment by addressing your harasser directly.
It’s important not to save this sort of information on a work computer. Don’t email it to yourself from your work computer either. Your employer may have access to anything that goes on through your work computer.
Instead, make the notes on paper as soon as possible after the incident and then transcribe it to a computer at home. Keep a paper copy of everything as well as a copy on a flash drive and keep them in different locations to protect them against theft. If you file a formal complaint, only send copies with the complaint. Keep your originals.
While it may not seem like much, a detailed journal provides credibility for your case, It shows that you took the problem seriously early on and gives your allegations more weight by showing what happened over time. Plus, it can keep your memory of precise details sharp.
For more information on how we approach sexual harassment claims, please check out our webpages on the topic.