If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, you might know the right thing to do is report the matter to your employer. In fact, informing your employer of possible harassment is a necessary step in any hostile work environment harassment case. But what will happen once you do? What can you expect?
You might hope to complain of the harassment and have your employer fire your harasser on the spot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way, and it can be a process for your employer to come to conclusions and act.
No two employers or sexual harassment cases are the same, though one thing every employer should do is launch an investigation into the complaint. This investigation might be conducted by human resources representatives, third-party investigators, or another person who can remain neutral. If you believe that the investigator is biased, contact a workplace sexual harassment attorney right away.
The investigation should include interviews of the people involved in the complaint and likely witnesses. Expect to undergo questioning regarding what happened, who was involved, when and how often the conduct occurred, and why it was offensive. While it can be uncomfortable to recount the details of the harassment, be careful not to leave anything out and stick to the facts. Any inconsistencies in your version of events will be noticed.
The investigator will also interview the accused harasser. As much as you would like them to simply believe you at your word, a neutral investigation will need to consider all perspectives of what happened. For this reason, they will need to get the accused’s side of the story.
In addition, the investigator will likely interview anyone who might have knowledge of the harassment. This might include co-workers who sit next to you and the harasser, people you told about the harassment, and more.
In addition to interviewing parties, investigators will likely collect physical evidence that helps them reach a conclusion. Some questions you might face include:
- Did any communications take place electronically? Did you save those emails, texts, or social media messages?
- Did you email or text co-workers, friends, or family to tell them about the harassment?
- Did you keep notes about what happened in a journal?
- If some of the harassment happened outside of work, do you have receipts or other proof of where you were at the time?
- If harassment happened on a business trip, do you have expense reports and other information about the trip?
You can expect to turn over anything that might be relevant to the case.
Once the investigator concludes whether the harassment happened or not, your employer should act on those findings. This might involve disciplining, transferring, or terminating the harasser if they agree you experienced sexual harassment. On the other hand, if the investigation could not conclusively say that harassment occurred, your employer might do nothing, allowing the conduct to continue.
If you continue to be exposed to sexual harassment or if you believe the investigation of your complaint was mishandled, speak with a California workplace sexual harassment lawyer immediately.