Sexual harassment is prohibited in the workplace. It can cause psychological and physical harm and should not be ignored. You have the right to feel safe at work, and under both state and federal regulations, employers can be held liable for sexual harassment. However, you will likely have to provide documentation to support your claim. As a result, it is critical to understand how to document sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual harassment is a broad term referring to many types of unwanted sexual attention. Incidents of sexual harassment are broken down into two primary categories by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
Common examples of sexual harassment include unwelcome hugging, kissing, or other types of inappropriate physical contact, staring or leering, intrusive questions about your private life or physical appearance, unwanted invitations to go out on dates, requests for sex, or sexually explicit emails, calls, text messages or online interaction, and more.
Ideally, you would be able to gather video, audio, or written evidence of a sexual harassment incident. However, that is not always possible. Taking detailed notes after any encounter that made you feel violated, unsafe, or offended is critical. If you have any written documentation of the offense (e.g., texts or emails), keep copies and save them somewhere other than your work computer. If anyone witnessed the sexual harassment occur, ask if they are willing to make a brief recorded statement on your phone of what they saw. If applicable, gather copies of your work evaluations, information about possible promotions, and anything else that demonstrates your value as an employee. Keep in mind that any bit of information can end up being crucial to your claim.
As soon as a sexual harassment incident takes place, write down:
Try to do this as soon as possible to not forget any crucial details. Even if you are unsure whether the behavior qualifies as sexual harassment, it is in your best interests to keep a journal in case it ends up establishing a pattern.
First, report what happened to a supervisor, department lead, or your Human Resources director. Reporting unwanted or offensive behavior early is often an effective way to make sexual harassment stop. Your employer should have workplace policies or procedures in place on how to report sexual harassment (including reporting confidentially or anonymously) and how reports will be dealt with. If you feel that you cannot file a complaint at work, you can contact the Department of Human Resources, Office of General Counsel, EEO Division by emailing Workplace.Harassment@tn.gov.
In addition, it is in your best interests to speak to a Tennessee sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible. They can help you gather the evidence and documentation you need and file your complaint. An attorney will also help prepare you for the difficult conversations to expect and navigate the claims process.