Consultant Suggests Ways to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

December 07, 2017 10:32 PM

It can be hard to speak up and say something if you've been made to feel vulnerable due to sexual harassment in the workplace.

But consultant Susan Strauss said there are options to better protect your privacy.


"You could do it verbally," she said. "You could also write it. And you would put the date down, and you would say 'John, on this date you massaged my neck and shoulders. You called me 'honey.' You asked me to go out and have a drink. I did not like it. I don't want you to do it again.'

"And then you sign your name."

Strauss has served as an expert witness in cases involving sexual harassment in schools and in the the workplace.

RELATED: Extended Interview: U of M Professor Talks About Sexual Harassment Culture on Capitol Hill

In addition to her work as a consultant, she also trains human resources departments on how to investigate sexual harassment claims.

"A third thing that you could do is take your company's policy of harassment and perhaps highlight behaviors that are representative of what 'John' did," she said. "And you could anonymously stick that into his mailbox or tape it to his computer screen."

Email, however, is not a method Strauss suggests in addressing inappropriate or uncomfortable behavior.

"You send it by email, somebody could alter the email and then send it out and make it appear different than what you intended," she said.  "Nothing on email is ever private anymore anyway."

Whether you're ready to report a problem or not, Strauss emphasizes the importance of documenting every incident in detail.

The more details you include - date, time and who may have seen the behavior - the more ground an employee has to stand on when demanding the company take action.  

RELATED: LIST: Notable Figures Facing Allegations of Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

She also suggests asking HR how they're going to handle the complaint if you do come forward to report it.

"At any time during the process, you have the right to contact an attorney," she said. "You have the right to contact the EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the federal agency that oversees harassment.  Or you could go to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and issue your complaint there."

The target doesn't have to prove sexual harassment.

Instead, workplace investigations depend on a preponderance of evidence. Which means it's more likely something happened than not.


Katherine Johnson

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