Federal law and Indiana state law both prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, but sexual harassment is still a common occurrence. Unfortunately, many victims of sexual harassment are afraid to report the harassment to HR. Not all HR departments react as they should, but reporting harassment is beneficial to the employee if the employee ultimately decides to file a claim or a lawsuit against his or her employer. Complaining to HR may also be beneficial to other employees if the harasser goes after someone else. Even if the first employee’s complaint did not get the harasser fired, it may help do so if a second employee complains.
A good HR department will interview an employee who makes a complaint of sexual harassment. The employee should be prepared to provide the dates of when the harassment occurred and any details regarding the harassment. Employees should also name any witnesses who witnessed or who are aware of the harassment.
If any harassment occurred over email or text message, the employee should save those messages and present them to HR but retain a copy for himself or herself. If the harassment is not in writing, employees should maintain a journal and write down the date, time, and any details regarding the harassment. Notes reflecting an employee’s present sense impression of the events are ideal.
If HR is doing its job, it should investigate the complaint of harassment by talking to any witnesses and the harasser. HR is not allowed to share details regarding its interviews or any disciplinary action taken, but it should let the employee know when the investigation is complete. If an employer retaliates against an employee for making a complaint of sexual harassment, this in itself can be the basis for a lawsuit. Employees who feel they have been sexually harassed or retaliated against for complaining of harassment may want to consult with an employment attorney.