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Documenting workplace sexual harassment

Sexual harassment at work is seldom a single event. If it becomes necessary to take the issue to court, you'll be asked to describe events in detail.

Do not rely on your memory. You may think that something is unforgettable, only to find that some important details get lost with time. Those details could make or break your case with a jury.

In order to have the best possible protection for the future, take the following steps.

1. Review company policies

Look at the employee handbook or at any information on sexual harassment provided by human resources. If instructions are provided on how the company expects harassment to be documented, follow those steps.

2. Start a journal

Keep a written record of each incident of harassment. You may not want to be obvious about it at work, however, so consider sending yourself a message on your phone or recording it on an app like Evernote, which can be accessed anywhere online. Keep track of things like times, dates and witnesses. Try to record exactly what was done or said. Note the circumstances of the incident and your response.

3. Keep physical evidence

Sexual harassment can include emails, notes, pictures, gifts and even items of a sexual nature (like condoms left on your desk). As repugnant as you may find some of these things, keep them. They could become valuable parts of your case later. Make sure you note how and when these items were left in your journal.

4. Keep track of retaliation

Once you've reported the incident to your superiors, keep a record of anything that might constitute retaliation for upsetting the "status quo" with your complaint. This includes writing down statements made to you, derogatory performance evaluations or other problems.

In reality, your employers should be grateful that you're alerting them to a problem that could threaten the well-being of their business. Unfortunately, that's not always how employers react. They may blame the victim of sexual harassment instead of the perpetrator. If that happens, you may be well-advised to examine your legal options.

Source: bizfluent, "How to Document Harassment in the Workplace," Billie Nordmeyer, accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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