Reporting Sexual Harassment To Your Employer
Reporting Sexual Harassment: Your Rights and Options
You have the right to bring a legal action for sexual harassment with or without an internal report to your employer. However, there are compelling reasons to consider making an internal report. First, it increases the chances of your workplace addressing and resolving the issue. Second, your employer is not legally accountable for the behavior until they are made aware of it. Lastly, reporting can shield you from potential retaliation or reprisals by the harasser.
Sexual Harassment Policies: How to Report
Massachusetts law mandates that all employers have harassment policies in place, complete with a reporting and investigation system. Typically, you can find these policies in the employee handbook or request a copy from Human Resources. Even if some employers fail to maintain written policies, not having one or not following it could lead to punitive damages in the event of a successful sexual harassment lawsuit. If you can't locate a policy and lack an HR department, you can bring your report to anyone in management. Importantly, you should never be required to confront your harasser directly, regardless of their position within the company.
Your Rights Against Retaliation and Reprisal
Making an internal report of sexual harassment is a protected activity under state and federal discrimination laws. Consequently, your employer is prohibited from taking adverse action against you, such as termination or demotion, as retaliation for your complaint. These rights aren't contingent on whether the behavior is ultimately deemed unlawful. As long as you have a "reasonable good faith" belief that the conduct constituted sexual harassment, you are shielded from reprisals.
Your Rights to an Impartial Investigation
Once management is alerted to your complaint, certain steps must be taken. Information must be collected from you in a safe and confidential manner, ensuring you aren't forced to directly confront your harasser. The company must maintain the confidentiality of your report, disclosing its substance only as necessary for the investigation. The investigation should be conducted fairly, promptly, and impartially.
While terms like "fair" and "prompt" lack precise definitions, a harassment complaint shouldn't linger without action. The person conducting the investigation must have no involvement in your complaint and should interview all relevant individuals.
Your Rights if the Investigation Finds Sexual Harassment
If the investigation concludes that sexual harassment did occur, you should engage with the company to address it. While termination of the harasser is a potential outcome, it isn't guaranteed. The company might suggest transferring you or the harasser to different departments or divisions.
Whatever the resolution, it should not harm you. If you receive a resolution you find unsatisfactory or punitive for reporting harassment, consult an employment lawyer to explore your options.
Your Rights if the Investigation Does Not Find Sexual Harassment
Frequently, internal investigations don't definitively conclude that harassment took place. This doesn't mean the company is correct, nor does it prevent you from pursuing legal action. You can still request that the company address the behavior, even if they don't consider it actionable harassment.
Furthermore, remember that protection from retaliation persists, even if the investigation doesn't substantiate harassment. If you experience termination, demotion, or undesirable changes after the investigation, consult an employment lawyer about potential retaliation claims.
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Your Right to Bring a Legal Claim for Sexual Harassment
Regardless of whether you report harassment internally or the investigation's outcome, you maintain the right to bring a legal claim against your employer if you believe you've experienced sexual harassment. Since harassment falls under discrimination laws, you must initially file your complaint with either the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ("MCAD") or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The statute of limitations for these claims is 300 days from the discriminatory or retaliatory act, so prompt action is essential to seek legal recourse.
Wondering What Your Rights Are if You Are Dealing With Sexual Harassment at Work?
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How Our Employment Lawyers Can Help
Our experienced team can provide guidance and support throughout the process of reporting and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, ensuring your rights are protected every step of the way. You can use the button below to schedule a call back from a member of our team, or give us a call at 781-784-2322.