Maybe you’re the victim of unwanted sexual attention from a co-worker, customer or boss. Maybe you’re just a bystander who has witnessed a co-worker being harassed, and you want to do your part to stop that kind of behavior from going unchallenged in the workplace.

It’s time to start documenting what’s happening. If initial complaints to management or human resources aren’t handled well (or there’s retaliation against the complainer for daring to speak up), you could easily be headed toward a lawsuit. Plus, at the very least, you may need your notes to help with any internal investigation that occurs.

Details are the key to an effective record. Here’s how to start yours:

  1. Make backup copies of every email, text or message. It’s smart to keep both a printed copy and a copy saved on the Cloud so that you don’t have to worry that your communications will suddenly “disappear” after you make a complaint. Don’t just keep the communications between you and the harasser or you and the victim. Keep all the communications you make about the incident to friends, relatives or others. All that evidence can help you prove the veracity of your statements later.
  1. Put everything you can down in writing. Record each incident as soon after it happens as possible and include in your notes:
  • Where and when the incident occurred, as reliably as possible
  • Who was there, what each person said and how they reacted
  • Any witnesses who were there, even if they said nothing
  • Any additional information that could prompt your memory later or be useful to put the incident in context during an investigation
  1. Do not tell other people that you’re keeping a record of what happens. That could open you up to increasing hostility or scrutiny. Review your records whenever you have a meeting with human resources to discuss the incident, but don’t bring out your documentation until you’re sure that you’re being treated fairly.

Sexual harassment in the workplace won’t end until it becomes too costly for the harassers to continue. Find out more about your legal options.