Reporting Sexual Harassment in the #MeToo Era
According to Vox.com, as of January 1, 2019, 263 celebrities, politicians, CEOs, and others who have been accused of sexual misconduct since April 2017. Pat Meehan. Al Franken. Trent Franks. Blake Farenthold. John Conyers, Jr. Bobby Scott. Ruben Kihuen. Roy Moore. These are a few from the proverbial roll call of members of Congress that have been accused of sexual misconduct since October 2017, when the #metoo movement went viral. The voices of women like Tarana Burke, Christine Blasey Ford, Rochelle Washington, Latresa Scaff, Rose McGowan, Jerhonda Pace, Mira Sorvino, Asante McGee, Gwyneth Paltrow and many other brave women who spoke out against their accusers were without a doubt powerful, and have changed how instances of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination are dealt with in Hollywood and other industries.
The following steps will assist you in preserving your legal rights under New York state, Federal and New York City law if you have been subject to any kind of sexual harassment.
- Know Your Rights. Your employer is not permitted to make any employment decisions including: hiring, firing, promotion or job assignments on the based on your willingness to date, engage in sexual acts or sexual discussions. In addition, your employer is not permitted to retaliate against you by terminating, demoting or disciplining you for rejecting, objecting to unwanted sexual behavior.
- Read and Become Familiar With Your Employer’s Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy. If your employer has an anti-Harassment or anti-Discrimination policy, be sure to read it and become familiar with the reporting process. Be sure to utilize the reporting process articulated in the policy. Please make any complaints in writing. However, if your employer does not have such a policy or if others who have followed the process have not had their issues addressed bring that to the attention of your attorney when you speak with them.
- Review Your Personnel Record. It is your right to review and know what is in your personnel file. Make yourself familiar with its contents and write down anything that looks improper or suspicious. Your personnel file should not contain any “write ups”, “employee actions” or notes that you have not seen. Any actions or comments that you have not been made aware of, that are in your personnel file, should immediately be objected to in writing. You are not entitled to copy your personnel record.
- Take Notes. It is a good idea to keep daily notes of the sexual harassment taking place at your job on a regular basis. Print out any and all emails related to your claims. Keep all correspondence that support your belief that you are being treated poorly for complaining or that you have been sexually harassed. Be sure to keep these notes in a safe place at all times. Do not keep these notes or items at work. Be sure to take them home with you every night. Also, do not create these notes while you are working. Your journal or notebook should be updated only during breaks, lunch time or at a time outside of your shift.
- Make Your Objections Known. Too often those who are subject to sexual harassment will keep silent until they are disciplined or terminated. However, in some instances, this might negatively affect your case. Although making a complaint will not guarantee the negative treatment will stop (in some cases it may even get worse), by complaining you are placing your company on notice that the behavior is taking place and that you are objecting to it. If you have concerns about making a complaint, contact an attorney and they will discuss your options with you.
- Do Not Wait. The law only allows you a certain amount of time to file your claim. If you believe that the actions being sexually harassed seek legal advice as to whether these acts are prohibited by law.
- Keep Your Disciplinary Record Clean. It is always important that you are in strict compliance with your company’s employee conduct policies. However, if you are being targeted, it becomes even more important to assure that you are in compliance with every rule and procedure. If your employer or supervisor is looking for an excuse to terminate or discipline you, make it very difficult for them to legitimately do so. However, if you do have a disciplinary record, this does not automatically bar you from pursing action. If you are being improperly disciplined “grieve” the action or respond to the accusation in writing. Do not sign anything.
- Fulfill All Your Duties and Responsibilities. It is your right to be fully aware of your employer’s expectations. The duties and responsibilities of your position should be clearly articulated to you in writing. If these duties change, then the writing should be updated. Your evaluations should only include matters that are part of your duties and responsibilities. Unfair or improper evaluations should be objected to and responded to in writing. You should have a clear understanding of how your employer believes you performed; and what is necessary to meet and exceed their expectations.
- Pay Attention. Be aware of warning signs that your job is in jeopardy. This includes, but is not limited to, decrease in job duties, frequent write ups, being left out of department meetings and emails and difficulty getting approval for time- off.
- Seek Legal Advice. Make sure that the actions you are taking to protect your rights are the correct ones. Seek legal counsel who has experience in this area of law to guide you.