Reporting sexual harassment

Maybe it was a joke about your body or a comment on what you were wearing perhaps it was even a "mistaken" touch that made you realize you had been sexually harassed. The modern day working environment presents more of a struggle than ever for workers seeking help after experiencing sexual harassment on the job.

Toni Jaramilla, an attorney and partner at Toni Jaramilla, A Professional Law Corporation, recently contributed to the LA Times helping to guide victims of sexual harassment who want to report their aggressors. As former chair of the California Employment Lawyers Association, Jaramilla is well versed in supporting victims on their legal and emotional journey after suffering from harassment.

  • Who should you turn to?

If an interaction made you uncomfortable, you should report it. Seeking help from the human resources department is the first step in reporting what happened. According to the state of California you have one year from the date of the last incident of harassment to file a complaint. Even if you experienced something years ago it is worth reporting. Jaramilla  suggests working with a therapist, no matter how long ago it happened. Harassment of any kind can have a substantial mental impact on the victim.

  • What needs to be done?

Put your complaint in writing. A general rule when dealing with any internal issues is to document everything. Keep printed copies of any digital interaction for your records. If any of this documentation is on your work computer make sure to extract it as soon as possible.  Save emails and chats; make sure to take detailed notes on what occurred. Include what was said, where, when, in what context and if any witnesses were present.  Getting the points down on paper as soon as possible ensures that the specifics are fresh in your mind; also it creates a secure copy that is only accessible to you.

  • What do you need to know?

Once you have made a claim, your office is legally obliged to open an investigation. Regarding how long the investigation will take, there is no set time limit the company needs to follow according to the law when examining a sexual harassment issue.

If you are under the impression your organization is not looking into the claim as they should, meeting with a lawyer to see what your next steps are may be a wise move. Speaking out may be challenging, but you are not alone, support is available to help victims who have experienced sexual harassment.

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