Me – Too: What do I do next?
By: Jessica P. Gomez, Esq.
On August 10, 2021, Andrew Cuomo resigned from his position as the governor in New York in light of sexual harassment and assault allegations. Recently, sexual harassment and assault victims have bravely come forward to confront their attackers, including Bill Crosby, Harvey Weinstein, and James Franco. Unfortunately, these experiences are not isolated to women/men with direct exposure to influential public figures but across all industries.
In the workplace harassment “unwelcome conduct that is based on a protected characteristic such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information” that was severe or pervasive so as to alter the conditions of employment. It is important to note that you do not need to be fired/terminated to make a claim of harassment.
Harrassment may take many forms, including: rape, improper touching, use of sexual language, jokes, micro-aggressions, glares, not greeting someone you have interacted with daily. Moreover, harassment is not limited to male on female interaction. It can be female on male interaction, male on male interaction, and female on female interaction. Further, “dating,” “being friendly,” or continuing to work or do business with the harasser does not necessarily mean conduct at some point was not harassing. So long as the conduct is unwelcome at the time of the harassment, it will usually be considered harassment.
Once the harassment has occurred, the next issue is what action to take?
- Report the harassment. It is important to inform a supervisor or human resources in writing about the incident. Verbal communication can be insufficient because a supervisor may forget or deny the complaint. Sometimes a company may have an ethics hotline that you can contact. However, it is still essential to get the email of the person you spoke to and confirm your conversation in writing. In a smaller setting, or if the harassment is from the top person in power, it is still important to memorialize the incident and inform that person that the conduct is unacceptable. If the harasser refuses to stop, one option is to directly contact the EEOC or your state’s Employment agency, such as California’s Fair Employment and Housing Agency, New York Division of Human Rights. However, if you pursue that path, contact an attorney as soon as possible to avoid/preserve missing deadlines.
- Take note of whether an investigation ensues after you make a complaint of harassment.
- If nothing transpires after the complaint, request to work a different shift/department/ transfer away from the harasser in writing.
- Note any witnesses during the harassing conduct. Contact those witnesses about the events that transpired with concrete proof. You want to avoid instances of deniability by a witness who may feel compelled to side with the employer/harasser.
- Keep notes/journals/diaries immediately after or as soon as you can to help you remember.
- Save any messages from text, email, social media, or other apps from the harasser or possible witnesses
- File a police report in any instance of sexual battery (improper touching) and rape
- Last, contact an employment lawyer, especially if you are afraid of reporting the harassment because the person in power is a higher-up or there are no formal policies. You may run into deadlines that you need to protect if you opt to file with a government agency, and an attorney can help protect those deadlines.
Harassment is never appropriate in any setting. It is important to empower yourself to know your rights and take action. While this can be a scary time, and if you feel you cannot report/confront the harassment alone, contact an attorney.
On a further note, it is equally important to get help as soon as you can. Consider reaching out to your mental health facility to help you address any concern of harassment.
*This article is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice.
LEGAL RESOURCE GUIDE
Find a complete guide below thanks to Jen Blair.
Equal Rights Advocates – If you’re being mistreated, paid unfairly, or harassed at work, knowing your rights can help you stand up for yourself and potentially help others, too. Whether you send an anonymous letter, file a complaint, or simply open a conversation at work, start with learning what your legal rights and options are. Find more resources at www.equalrights.org/issue/economic-workplace-equality/
National Women’s Law Center: If you’re harassed at work, they can get you a free lawyer consultation to help you understand your options. https://nwlc.org/
Start our process by filling out the form at this link.
How it works:
- Fill out our intake format this link.
- We will send you the names of three lawyers in the Legal Network for Gender Equity who practice in your area if your situation involves:
— Sex discrimination at work, as a student in school, or as a patient getting health care;
— Accessing paid sick leave and paid leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed because of COVID-19.
- You are responsible for reaching out to the lawyers.
- You can look here for additional resources.
Lawyers in the Legal Network agree to do a free initial meeting with people coming to them through the Legal Network. Some of these lawyers also offer lower rates or free assistance, but others require payment after the first meeting.
If your case involves sex harassment at work, the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund may be able to help pay for your legal case and for media and storytelling assistance.
- To apply for case funding, click here.