Although reporting the harassment is not a strict requirement for the victim in order to prevail in a lawsuit against the employer, a report puts the employer on notice to take steps to stop the harassment.
Importantly, reporting the harassment will help to prove to the jury that the conduct of the harasser was unwanted and unwelcomed by the victim and that the harasser was on notice that the offensive behavior was unwanted.
Also, reporting the harassment to the employer can help to stop the defendant from lowering the victim’s damages at trial through the use of an avoidable consequences affirmative defense. When a victim does not report harassment by a co-worker to the employer, the employer can bring the affirmative defense that the employer is not liable for damages that could have been avoided by the employer, if the victim had made a timely report of the harassment.
The California Supreme Court has noted that stressful effects of sexual harassment may hinder a victim from reporting the harassment, and stated that the sexual harassment victim’s actions need only be “reasonable.” The California Supreme Court explained:
We stress also that the holding we adopt does not demand or expect that employees victimized by a supervisor’s sexual harassment must always report such conduct immediately to the employer through internal grievance mechanisms…. the employee may reasonably fear reprisal from the harassing supervisor or other employees. Moreover, in some cases an employee’s natural feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, and shame may provide a sufficient excuse for delay in reporting acts of sexual harassment by a supervisor.
Reporting sexual harassment to your employer can be intimidating. If you feel that you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, but are afraid to report the harassment to your employer, an attorney can help you to decide what your next best step should be, and can help guide you in making a report to your employer.