Reporting sexual harassment to your employer can be scary. You probably feel worried about retaliation from the company or the person whom you report. You may think that asking for support might end your upward growth at the company.
Both federal and Colorado state laws about sexual harassment are clear about the rights of a worker and the obligations of an employer. You have the right to make a report and to receive protection as someone facing harassment on the job. What should your company do when you make a report?
The company should offer a safe way to make the report
If your manager or someone from the human resources department is the one harassing you at work, it probably doesn’t feel safe to make a formal complaint. Your employer should have a safe way to report harassment and ideally a second or bypass option when someone in the reporting chain plays a role in your harassment. When you make a report, they should take it seriously and gather as much information as possible from you to initiate an investigation.
The company should protect you from future abuse until they investigate
It can take weeks to sort through the records and testimony in a sexual harassment claim. During that time, the company should protect you from ongoing abuse. Enforcement of harassment policies at every level is important, but especially when the offender is highly ranked in the company.
Although some companies transfer the individual filing a complaint to a new department, that could be a form of discrimination in itself. It is usually best for them to move the person accused of misconduct to a different role rather than to punish the person facing that misconduct.
The company shouldn’t punish you whether they side with you or not
Retaliation has a chilling effect on every person facing sexual harassment in the workplace. People worry about speaking up because they don’t want to lose their job or face a hostile work environment.
If a company determines that the harassment did occur, it should commit to educating or penalizing the person who committed the harassment. They should also be careful not to punish you for reporting the harassment, even if their investigation doesn’t substantiate your claims.
Whether your company fails to take your sexual harassment claim seriously or sides with your harasser instead of with you, you may need to prepare yourself to report the issue outside of the business and possibly even take the company to court.