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How to strengthen your case when you report sexual harassment

If you're the victim of sexual harassment at work, one of the first things you should do is file a complaint with your human resources (HR) department. The more evidence and witnesses you can provide, the better your chances will be of being believed and of your employer taking the necessary action to make it stop.

It's important to begin keeping a record of the harassment as soon as it begins - or at least as soon as you see it becoming a pattern. However, it's wise to report it earlier rather than later. If you let it go on for a while, hoping the harasser will stop, they could perceive that you don't have a problem with what they're doing. Further, the people in HR may wonder why you didn't come forward earlier.

Another advantage of reporting the harassment promptly is that it will be easier for HR to recover emails and messages that may have been deleted. That brings us to the importance of evidence. For each instance of harassment, note the date, time and place and a description of what was said or done and by whom. If you have evidence, such as inappropriate emails, texts, notes, instant messages or voicemail messages, keep those.

If there have been witnesses to the harassment, provide those names. Some people don't want to get their colleagues involved. However, if they saw or heard anything -- or even if you told them about the harassment at the time -- they can bolster your case.

Finally, have some patience, and give the system time to work. Even if you bring HR a ton of evidence, they still have to investigate the situation. Don't lose your temper or quit your job if you don't think the process is moving fast enough.

If nothing is done about the situation, if the harassment continues or intensified or if you believe that you're suffering retaliation for coming forward -- such as suddenly getting unwarranted poor reviews or being demoted or terminated -- it may be a good idea to talk with an attorney who has experience with sexual harassment cases. They can help you review your options, including possibly taking legal action.

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