How do you document sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant problem. Thousands of incidents are reported every year, and many more incidents likely go undiscovered because the victims are afraid to speak out.
Who will believe them? How will they prove their case in court?
The problem for many victims of sexual harassment is that they believe that they’re all alone and that without witnesses, there’s no way to convince a jury that anything happened.
Fortunately, that’s not true. People are well aware that abusers are canny enough to hide their actions, so they are willing to look past the fact that there are no witnesses. Instead, they look for consistency and details in a victim’s story on which to judge its merits.
If you’re the victim of sexual harassment, one of the things that you can do to lend more weight to your version of events is to document everything. That means keeping any notes, photos, texts or emails. It also means keeping a journal about everything else.
Here is the best way to do it:
- Be timely. Do not wait to record the events a day or two later. Write everything down in as much detail as you can while the information is fresh.
- Be detailed. Include not just the actual events, but the location, what ended the event, anyone who may have been nearby and exact words that were used.
- Be clear. You have to tell a harasser that his or her actions are unwelcome. Legally, that’s the difference between an office flirtation and actual harassment. Document exactly what you said and did to discourage the harasser.
- Be assertive. You should also file a complaint with your boss, the human resources department or whatever accountability system the company offers if the harassment continues. Keep a record of who you talked to and when. If this fails, or there is no reporting method, call the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Make certain that you keep a copy of your journal someplace safe, well away from work. If you keep the journal on a computer, back it up onto a cloud drive or a thumb drive (or both) for additional safety.
A well-kept journal can help paint a vivid picture of the sexual harassment you experienced at work to a jury, if the case has to go that far.
Source: Livestrong.com, “How to Document Harassment in the Workplace,” accessed Jan. 17, 2018