Understanding Internal Complaints in Sexual Harassment Cases

Workers are protected against sexual harassment by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In sexual harassment cases, cases often hinge on whether an employer has an affirmative defense. Sometimes, employers will argue that the plaintiff never reported the claim or followed company sexual harassment procedures.

Here’s what you should know about reporting sexual harassment internally.

‘Failing to take advantage’ of anti-harassment opportunities

Employers can argue “(a) that the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any…harassing behavior, and

(b) that the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the employer to avoid harm otherwise.” [Emphasis added.]

Failing to take advantage of an internal complaint system could harm your case. When you’re sexually harassed on the job, first, find out if your company has an anti-harassment policy in place. Follow the reporting procedure as closely as possible.

It’s always wise to submit harassment complaints right after the incident occurred—but that’s not always possible, especially if your employer threatened retaliation. Report as soon as you can. If there’s a delay, note the reason why in your written report. Courts may vary on what they consider a timely report.

Many employees fear retaliation, even if they were not explicitly told they’ll lose their job when they make a complaint. Again, courts differ on what constitutes a reasonable belief in retaliation. However, if your employer tells you making a report will incur retaliation, you do not have to report to your employer. Otherwise, you must make a complaint.

Your employer may brush off your complaints: do you have to keep reporting until something is done? Unfortunately, courts rule differently on whether an employee is required to keep reporting the harassment when no action was taken. Talking to an attorney is the best way to determine your legal options.

When you’ve experienced employer wrongdoing, a seasoned Kardell Law Group whistleblower attorney can help. Call our office today to schedule a consultation.