Complaining, Reporting Sex Harassment, Coping With Retaliation, and Dealing with Management

Employees facing sexual harassment are often confused about what steps to take to complain and stop the harasser. They also frequently do not know how to deal with management once it becomes involved in the matter. The following should assist employees coping with the situation and bringing the matter to a successful resolution.

  •  Communicate That Harassing Conduct is Unwelcome
    A victim should always make it clear to the harasser that the harassing conduct is unwelcome. This eliminates any confusion or misunderstanding as the to welcomeness of the conduct.


  •  Employer’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Reporting Mechanism
    It is adviseable to find and review the sexual harassment policy or ask someone in HR or management for a copy. If no written harassment policy is in place, supervisors, managers and/or HR representatives may offer some suggestions as to whom a sexual harassment complaint should be lodged. Most sexual harassment policies contain a specific complaint mechanism. Some employment handbooks also contain an employer’s sexual harassment policy and complaint mechanism.


  • Complaint Channels in Sexual Harassment Policy or Handbook
    A complaint should follow the reporting mechanism provided in the employer’s sexual harassment policy or employment handbook. If the harasser is in the employee’s chain of command, most policies provide an avenue that permits employees to complain to someone outside her chain of command. This may also avoid the prospect of possible retaliation by the alleged harasser who is over the victim in rank.


  • Written Complaints With Specifics Of Harassment
    A written compliant that provides much detail is effective in most instances. Such details may include names, times, dates, actual comments and those present when comments were made. A detailed complaint in writing with specifics is more likely to be taken seriously by management. It also creates a record that is more accurate since it is done when memories of the events are fresh in the mind of the victim.


  • Formal Investigation by Employer
    After management receives the complaint, it is likely to commence a formal investigation of the complaint. Some employers may suspend the harasser with pay or transfer him pending an investigation of the allegations. Other employee different mechanisms to ensure that the alleged harasser does not attempt to influence witnesses or retaliate against the victim. 


  • Expectation of Cooperation With Investigation
    Most employers require victims to cooperate with management’s investigation of the allegations. Most employers require that the victim be prepared to meet and provide the specifics of the misconduct, identifying witnesses and answering any questions that management asks in an attempt to complete the investigation.


  • Confidentiality of Facts and Witnesses
    During an employer’s investigation, other employees frequently start discussing the allegations and have questions for the victim as well as the harasser. Some employers require that the facts of the harassment and investigation be kept confidential and not discussed by the victim or witnesses. Confidentiality is also important in order for employee’s comments not to not to interfere with the investigation. 


  • Transfers and Reassignments Due to Harassment Complaint
    Employers sometimes suggest a transfer or reassignment of the victim at the conclusion of the investigation. Such are typically done with utmost care so that the victim is not placed in a worse position than before the complaint. Most employers would discipline the harasser also if the allegations are proven to be true.