Despite many strides toward greater equality in the workplace, people still experience degrading harassment by bosses, managers and co-workers. Sexual harassment isn’t limited to a few industries. It can happen at any kind of business, from a large corporate office to a retail establishment.
When you experience sexual harassment at work, it’s natural to want to forget about it as soon as possible. After all, dwelling on negative and upsetting social interactions can only make you feel worse about the situation. However, recording all of the details could actually help you put a stop to them and protect others from similar experiences in the future.
Ideally, your work situation allows you to inform your harasser directly about how the treatment makes you feel. However, not all work environments are conducive to this direct approach, and not all people can calmly manage this kind of confrontation. If you don’t feel comfortable handling the issue directly, you can approach management or the appropriate human resources contact.
Most of the time, this is all that you need to do to fix the situation. Your company should address harassment quickly and thoroughly. Depending on the severity of the offense, the person harassing you could receive retraining or disciplinary action. If your employer does nothing or you find yourself facing retaliation for reporting the harassment, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself.
As soon as you recognize what’s happening as harassment, you should begin making notes about your experience. Record the time, date, location and other pertinent details of each incident. Include the names of the people harassing you and any witnesses. If harassment occurs via email or other digital medium, capture screenshots or print emails and images so that they can’t just be deleted in the future.
You should also note any effort you’ve made to address the issue, from emailing human resources to asking the harasser to stop. You should make these notes or records as soon as possible after the event. You may use a note-taking app on your personal phone, not the phone issued by your employer. Alternatively, you might want to use a small notebook.
Making notes about the details of your harassment can help you feel empowered when dealing with a hostile work environment. It can also help you prepare for filing a report with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission if your employer fails to address the issue or disciplines you instead of stops harassing you. Detailed notes can also help as evidence in a civil suit if you bring a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer.