Sexual harassment can be encountered anywhere, including a professional environment where there are strict rules and etiquette guiding human interactions.
The first step to take when you face sexual harassment from a colleague at work is to file a complaint. This you can do via email because of the advantage of documentation. The complaint is on record in case of future referral or any form of lawsuit that can ensue later on. However, in case the harassment is coming from a superior, a complaint still has to be filed with a different approach.
If you face sexual harassment, no matter the gender, it is important to report it to your superiors right away. Not sending the email right on time could suggest something is going wrong and could cast some aspersion on your claim. There is simply no reason to delay this
Addressing Sexual Harassment via Email
- You may request that the company keep the email confidential. Usually, the company will reply that an investigation would be conducted based on your allegations but it is important to keep the matter confidential and be discreet.
- The law protects you and any witness from victimization when you file a complaint of sexual harassment.
- You need to tell the harasser that his/her actions are not welcome on the spot when he/she made the unwelcomed gesture. Your attitude towards this gesture should be made plain at that time and in your complaint. One of the legal requirements for sexual harassment is that the victim of harassment should make it known to the person coming on at him that he/she is not welcome.
- Describe in details how the harassment took place, including the date and time if you can. If possible, mention any witness that could corroborate part of or your entire story.
- Describe the nature of the sexual harassment in your email. Is it a request for sexual favors in exchange for other things? Is it verbal or physical (or both) conduct of a sexual nature? Do not be vague but be explicit.
- Include information about yourself and how long you have been working in the organization.
- Include the details regarding your working relationship with your harasser, the name of your harasser, and his position.
- Describe how the experience affected you emotionally, psychologically or physically, and the impact it may have on your work.
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Over the years, the issue of sexual harassment has been often defended by the harassers that those accusing are lying, trying to gain cheap popularity or wealth through the accusation; or they are too unattractive to be made a pass at, and that they actually enjoyed the sexual advances and welcomed it. They have also been accused of being planted by an opposition to attack and dent the character of the accuser. You need to be aware that the harasser will put up a defense.
This is the reason you should prepare your email with strong verifiable facts. If your workplace is one with CCTV camera, it is expedient you get your date and time accurately. You are bringing up an accusation against a person and you should do so with enough facts less it becomes a matter of your words against his and with this, the company is handicapped and cannot really do much.
However, there are cases whereby lack or little evidence should not discourage you from lodging your complaints when you find yourself being harassed sexually. This email may serve as a part of the evidence in the future if your harasser does not desist.
Sample Email 1: How to File a Sexual Harassment Complaint via Email
…I will like to bring to your attention an issue that has left me not only psychologically drained and depressed but also physically stressed.
I have had to face sexual harassment from Mr. Desmond Meke, from the Production and Packaging Department. Mr. Meke is a supervisor in the department and up until the 13 January 2017, my relationship with him had been strictly formal and very professional. However on this day, he made unwelcome sexual advances towards me, I immediately made clear to him that I found the behavior rather offensive.
His lewd remarks and later the derogatory statements made were not befitting of a worker in this esteemed organization. His conduct was unethical, rude and very unprofessional.
I will like to draw the attention of the administration and the Human Resources Department to this attitude which is not only illegal and immoral but also unethical. My intention is to file a lawsuit against him if this action is not curtailed.
While I do not work directly in the Production and Packaging Department, I am aware that Mr. Meke is a superior and I will like the management to discreetly handle the situation in order to prevent him from carrying out further harassment and intimidation on me.
Sample Email 2: How to File a Sexual Harassment Complaint via Email
…I have worked as a team with a group of young dynamic professionals in this organization for six years and the results have been quite productive and fulfilling. However, in my six years experience as an operations officer in this prestigious firm, I have never experienced such unwelcome sexual gestures nor have I had to endure derogatory statements from a colleague until 28 March 2016 from Mr. Joseph Crystal.
My working relationship with Mr. Crystal prior to this had been with mutual respect and professional, just like with many other colleagues. This is why his actions still left me bewildered and speechless. I have decided to file a formal complaint and wish to be transferred to another department where I will not have to endure some derogatory statements which I have had to face on two different occasions, though I made my displeasure outrightly clear.
Mr. Smith’s remarks came with some unwelcome physical contact that I found rather offensive and sexual in nature. I retaliated this action with a slap, after warning him repeatedly. This was my way of passing a message across that his actions were not welcomed. This incident occurred on 05 January 2017 at about 4 pm, shortly before the working hours were over. Witnessing it were Miss Ike and Mr. Fin who were also members of the team.
I intend to file a lawsuit as this action is not just unprofessional but also illegal. Please be informed, as this action has not just affected me emotionally but it has taken a toll on my physical well-being and work.
Written by Teju Duru; a communication expert and freelance writer based in Ibadan.
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