A Step-by-Step Guide to Documenting Sexual Harassment
What to know about collecting evidence, whether you’re a victim or a bystander
The reason you should document sexual harassment is straightforward: whether you’re the target of it or someone who saw it happen, a log of the details is important when it comes time to report the harassment to human resources or a higher-up. You don’t need documentation to file a complaint, but it can help whoever’s investigating know who to speak to or where to look, and it can help support your claims by providing a record of what happened and when. In certain cases, it may also help prove that the harassment meets the legal standard of being severe or pervasive, especially if it’s ongoing.
But the how of documenting harassment can be a little more confusing: what to make note of, where you should store notes, who you should reach out to for additional information, when you should bring it to the relevant authorities. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about documenting, including what to write down and what to do with it.
What does it mean to document?
Documenting harassment means taking notes of what happened, and keeping records of any written or electronic communication that’s part of the harassment. This could mean text messages, emails, or social media posts from the victim, harasser, a witness, or someone else involved. Write it down, screenshot it, print it out, or do whatever else you can to help yourself keep track.
“Even if you don’t have a specific time, that definitely doesn’t mean that there’s no helpful information that the employee may be able to recall and record.”
What information do I need to include?
When documenting harassment, the main questions to answer are: who, what, when, and where. Try to be as specific as possible. For example, instead of writing down that someone made an offensive comment, write down exactly what they said, explains Shannon Rawski, an assistant professor of human resources at the University of…