What Evidence Do I Need for a Sexual Harassment Case?
The emotional roller coaster caused by sexual harassment is only made worse when you realize that this behavior leaves behind little physical evidence. However, there are ways to document the things you need to prove to win your case. Some of the most valuable evidence will be work communications, your personnel file, witness statements, an employee handbook, and a diary kept at the time of the harassment. Some of these you will need to gather at the time and some can be acquired with the help of an employment lawyer.
The employment lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman understand the difficult position that sexual harassment in the workplace can put a worker in. These tips can help improve your likelihood of success in holding those responsible accountable.
What you need to prove in a sexual harassment case
A sexual harassment lawsuit against an employer in New York or New Jersey can be brought under state or federal laws. In general, you will need to prove that:
- A supervisor or another employee either created a hostile work environment or demanded sexual favors as a term of employment;
- The company knew or should have known about the harassment; and
- The company failed to address the harassment
You may need to follow a strict procedure to report the harassment to the company before being allowed to recover in a lawsuit. The procedure is often listed in the employee handbook. Consider consulting with a seasoned employment attorney to decide how to correctly handle the situation so that you do not waive any rights.
How you can prove your sexual harassment claim
When it comes to proving your claim, documentation is key. Some examples include:
- Work communications that validate your claim including notes, emails, or voice mail messages from the harasser; records of your reporting the harassment; and notes from witnesses that corroborate the events
- A personnel file showing your work history and performance
- Employment-related documents like employee handbooks that spell out sexual harassment policies and procedures for reporting violations
- Formal reports or complaints related to the events
- Company records of other related complaints
- Your diary or journal of events
- Bills for therapy or other consequences of the harassment
Some of these documents should be easy to obtain while you are still employed. Others will difficult to obtain without the help of a NY or NJ lawyer.
As a precaution, keep copies of necessary documents stored someplace you can access even if you are removed from the office. Unfortunately, sometimes an employer will take retaliatory action by firing an employee who calls out wrongdoing and removes them from premises. If you have incriminating documents stored in the office, you may not be able to access them when needed.
Why keep a diary of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment often takes place in the shadows – a subtle inappropriate statement here, an unwanted advance there. This type of behavior may not leave a trail on its own but by documenting the instances as they happen in a diary, you add weight and credibility to your claims.
When documenting your experiences:
- Be prompt – A journal carries is much more valuable as evidence when the entries take place immediately after the occurrence while you can still recall the details vividly
- Include everything – Even if a statement or action might seem trivial, it can demonstrate a pattern
- Be detailed – Write down the exact words used, the circumstances surrounding the event, and even who else might have witnessed it
- Document your response – Assert yourself by making it clear that the behavior is offensive and record those responses as well
Speak with a sexual harassment lawyer
Sexual harassment is more difficult to prove than some other types of claims but it can be done. An experienced lawyer can help you understand your rights and determine the best way to proceed so that you can protect yourself and your claim.
If you live in New York or New Jersey and have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, reach out to the attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman today. Our caring and committed attorneys are proud to serve clients throughout Rockland County and Bergen County who have been mistreated at work.