How to Report Sexual Harassment in 5 Straightforward Steps

Category: Business & Work 53

It’s unfortunate, but people can be awful. Sometimes, they just can’t keep their hands, or thoughts, to themselves.

HBO recently just finished a miniseries called The Loudest Voice, in which FOX News CEO Roger Ailes is a tyrant played brilliantly by Russell Crowe who regularly molests and violates women in his employ. He was a terrible person, politically and otherwise. Naomi Watts plays Gretchen Carlson, the first to come forward against him and ultimately bring him down before he died by hitting his head during a stroke. Good riddance.

We’re all glad we don’t have to deal with Roger Ailes, but the fallout lasted long after. Seems a lot of right wing pundits couldn’t keep their hands to themselves, most notably Bill O’Reilly. So, you don’t work at FOX news, but your boss is putting unwanted moves on you. What should you do?

You don’t want to get fired, but you also like your job and want to be a team player. Here are five ways on how to report sexual harassment that will not hurt your career progress:

1. Defining Sexual Harassment

Let’s start with the basics, and that’s defining what sexual harassment is. The definition of workplace sexual harassment can include many gestures, such as discrimination based on gender. The other forms are much more noticeable. There’s not a lack of clarity on that. If you feel your superior in the office is holding you back because of your gender, that’s discrimination.

However, if they’re flat out saying it, that’s harassment. They can say it, they can touch you inappropriately and they can solicit sexual acts for advancement in your field. None of this is okay. In the case of Roger Ailes, too often women either kept silent or went to HR and were told to “Let it go” due to his power. At that point, it’s time to seek outside counsel.

2. Write It Down & Record It

In Gretchen Carlson’s case, she had hours of tapes of Ailes repeatedly saying things such as “We should have had a sexual relationship…that way you would be better and I would be better.” There’s nothing more satisfying than a victim smearing a perpetrator with his own words.

If you believe you’re being sexually harassed, keep a written or recorded account of every incident. It’s also helpful if you have a co-worker who is willing to keep an eye out for you.

3. Get Help from Unions

All agreements between people include some sort of basic human rights contract. Otherwise, you are at a disadvantage as an employee. If you work in a field that has a union, you should speak to your delegates first and see what they advise.

If, however, you don’t, then it’s very much up to you to do the heavy lifting. It can be mentally challenging, and it may take years of therapy to work through, but the result will pay off.

4. Explore the Consequences

This is where things can be very nerve-wracking. Ideally, your employer should try and take steps to separate you and the person whom you are complaining about, but that’s not always possible. A complaint is often resolved, or settled, before an arbitrator can get involved, but not always. It’s rare these cases see the bright lights of justice, and your complaint may feel frivolous after all the paperwork.

According to, however, nearly all sexual harassment cases go unreported for fear of retribution. Approximately 5 million employees are harassed, and the punishments levied at perpetrators are often the equivalent of a slap on the wrist, if anything. This leads to roughly 98 percent of cases going unreported. The fear of retaliation is real, especially if the complaint is levied at the employer themselves.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the risk if you feel your complaint is valid – particularly since the #metoo movement exposed so many cases. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates around 88 per cent of complaints are legally actionable. Though the benefits of pursuing then tend to be less than satisfying, most ending in a monetary settlement and not even an apology.

The most encouraging aspect of the EEOC’s approach is that they’ve shifted away from legal action to focus more on training courses for managerial staff to ensure employees are treated with the respect they deserve.

5. Seek Legal Recourse

Health and safety laws – province by province – ensure certain protections against sexual harassment. The government often checks to make certain your company is up to requirement. Should you feel harassed, never be afraid to speak up. The hardest part is saying it the first time.

After that, it gets easier, and the more fairly you’re treated, the easier your work and home life will be. You can also make a complaint via the Canadian Human Rights Commission, regardless of your union status. Fighting back is always the first step.

Related Articles