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Webucator's Free Sexual Harassment Awareness Tutorial

Lesson: Reporting Harassment

Welcome to our free Sexual Harassment Awareness tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Sexual Harassment Awareness for Employees and Managers course.

It is best to prevent harassment from ever taking place by educating employees and managers. However, even companies with proactive initiatives and training programs cannot prevent everything. Therefore, it is essential that companies have effective processes in place for reporting harassment and for asking questions.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn how to handle harassment scenarios.
  • Learn how to report a harassment issue or how to ask questions regarding potential harassment.
  • Learn the differences between mediation and grievances.
  • Learn about Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) processes.

Who Do You Contact?

Harassment is illegal and the employer is liable, but the employer must be notified of the behavior. It is crucial that the act be reported. Most companies have a complaint or grievance process. If a process is unknown or does not exist, contacting a member of the human resources department or a supervisor is good option.

As the Victim

If you are a victim of harassment, follow these steps:

  1. Tell the harasser to stop.
  2. Keep a record.
  3. Tell someone.
  4. Confirm that the harassment stops.

Tell the Harasser to Stop

Approach the person directly and explain that their behavior is unacceptable. In certain situations, direct conversation is not easy. Writing a letter or email is perfectly acceptable. Make sure to keep a copy.

Keep a Record

Write down any details about a harassment incident. Include the following information for each incident:

  1. Date and time.
  2. Detailed explanation of what happened.
  3. Who was involved.
  4. Witnesses.
  5. When it was reported.
  6. Who it was reported to.

Tell Someone

Report the incident, or incidents, to a supervisor or the company's human resources department immediately. Keep a record of any report you give. A formal complaint or grievance should be created by a member of the company's human resources department by gathering details from the victim. The company should then conduct an investigation.

Confirm that the Harassment Stops

The desired result after confronting the harasser and reporting it to the employer is that the harassment ends. If the behavior continues, or in situations where the harassment was severe, the victim may need to pursue further action.

As a Witness

If you are a witness to harassment, follow these steps:

  1. Help the victim.
  2. Report the incident as a witness.

Help the Victim

The first step is to help the victim in any way possible. Some individuals who witness harassment taking place may step in and try to stop it immediately. This is not always possible, nor expected. The most important thing is to help the victim by teaching them the steps of reporting harassment and making sure they get help from a supervisor or the company's human resources department.

Help the victim through the appropriate steps:

  1. Make sure the victim has told the harasser to stop, either in person or in written communication.
  2. Tell the victim to write down everything and keep a record of any incidents and communication regarding this harassment case.
  3. Guide the victim to a supervisor or the company's human resources department to report the harassment.
  4. Confirm that the harassment stops.

Report the Incident as a Witness

Even after telling the victim what actions to take, it is important to report the incident yourself in case the victim does not. This places the liability on the company and ensures that you have assisted the victim in every possible way.

As a Supervisor

If you are a supervisor and an employee comes to you to report harassment, follow these steps:

  1. Help the victim.
  2. Create a formal complaint or involve the human resources department.

Help the Victim

Explain that he or she is in a safe environment to discuss these issues and thank them for coming forward. It can be scary and sometimes embarrassing reporting harassment. It is also very important that the victim know they are safe and will be protected from any backlash from the accused harasser or others in the company.

Also, maintain confidentiality and do not speak of the incident to others besides the human resources department.

Listen and take detailed notes regarding the harassment. Ask the victim if they have confronted their harasser yet and if they have kept any records of the incidents.

Create a Formal Complaint or Involve Human Resources

Depending on your company policy, either involve the human resources department or create the formal complaint yourself.

The formal complaint or grievance process includes interviewing:

  1. The victim.
  2. The witness.
  3. The accused harasser.

Again, maintaining the victim's confidentiality is extremely important. The ultimate goals of the complaint process are:

  1. To protect the victim.
  2. To stop the harassment.

After the company has performed an investigation, make sure a suitable resolution was reached for your employee.

Taking Action

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes.

In this exercise, you will demonstrate your understanding on how to take action when potential sexual harassment occurs.

  1. Who can formally report harassment?
    1. A victim.
    2. A witness.
    3. A supervisor.
    4. All of the above.

  2. What should a victim do if they do not feel comfortable telling their harasser to stop face to face?
    1. Write a letter.
    2. Have a co-worker confront the harasser.
    3. Ignore the harasser.
    4. Contact human resources.

  3. True or False: The victim and any witnesses should keep a record of any details related to the harassment.

  4. If a victim tells a supervisor they are being harassed, what should the supervisor do first?
    1. Tell the employee to call a lawyer.
    2. Tell the employee that they are overreacting.
    3. Tell the employee sorry but only HR can help.
    4. Help the employee by making them feel safe and listening to the problem.


A grievance, or formal complaint, is a document filed with the victim's company or union. This document outlines relevant facts given by the victim detailing the harassment incident or incidents, including:

  1. Dates and times when the behavior occurred.
  2. A list of possible witnesses.
  3. Additional details given by the victim.

The grievance is official notification so that the company is aware of the harassment and is now liable to take action to remedy the situation. No legal action has taken place at this point, but everything is clearly documented in case the situation requires a trial.

During the grievance process, a representative of the company gathers information from all parties involved and performs a thorough investigation to determine whether harassment took place and how best to resolve the issue. If additional actions are needed, the next step is mediation.

Understanding Grievances

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

In this exercise, you will demonstrate your knowledge of grievances.

Answer the following questions:

  1. The formal grievance document contains all of the following information except which one?
    1. Dates when the harassment took place.
    2. Names of possible witnesses.
    3. Name of the victim's lawyer.
    4. Detailed description of the incident.

  2. True or False: The company is liable for any cases of harassment whether they know about it or not.


Sexual harassment claims can be very costly when they involve lawyers and court fees. Other, nonmonetary costs are involved as well.

Often a private situation that goes through litigation becomes an ugly, public affair of taking sides and pointing fingers. Mediation is an alternative to litigation that often is a preferable route for all parties. Mediation is not always successful, but there are many benefits when it works.

There are two main mediation models:

  1. Four-Phase Process Model.
  2. Settlement Conference Model.

Four-Phase Process Model

The goal of this model is to work together to find a solution and maintain relationships.

Phase 1

The involved parties each take turns telling their story to the mediator. The disputants do not talk to each other. The mediator identifies the issues and prepares the group for a productive discussion. In some situations, the victim and accused harasser may not be in the same room during this phase. Instead, the mediator may speak to each party separately.

Phase 2

The disputants face each other and listen to each other as each side explains their viewpoint. Then they respond to each other to show a level of understanding. The mediator rarely speaks during this phase. The victim and accused harasser both take turns telling their story and listening to the other's story. Each explains how they feel regarding the situation. The response section of this phase is extremely important and proves to the mediator that each party is able to rise above their own needs to move towards common ground.

Phase 3

In this phase, the mediator helps the disputants recognize a common ground and understanding between one another. The mediator gently nudges the two parties but for the most part the conversation is still focused on communication between the disputants to reach an understanding of one another.

Phase 4

In the final phase, the disputants find and agree on a resolution that benefits both parties. The mediator does not make suggestions or dictate the conversation in any way. This resolution must come from the disputants.

Settlement Conference Model

The goal of this model is to find an agreeable resolution so legal action is not needed. Situations that require this type of mediation are often intentional harassment cases where the victim and accused harasser cannot have a calm, productive conversation.

In the Settlement Conference Model, the mediator is a negotiator that listens to both parties as a group and separately to gather details and evidence. The mediator then presents possible settlement scenarios to the involved parties. The mediator remains in the middle and makes changes to the settlement until both parties agree on a solution.

Whether using the Four-Phase Model or the Settlement Conference Model, mediation can meet the needs of both parties and the employer. It is less expensive, provides confidentiality, avoids negative impacts on careers, and allows both sides to decide the outcome.

Understanding Mediation

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

In this exercise, you will demonstrate your knowledge of mediation.

Answer the following questions:

  1. The two main mediation models are:
    1. Litigation process and negotiation process
    2. Four-phase process and settlement conference
    3. Settlement conference and negotiation process
    4. Resolution process and four-phase process

  2. True or False: Mediation is a confidential process that can save disputants going to a public trial.

EEOC Processes

If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step is litigation. Prior to filing a lawsuit, a formal complaint must be filed with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or a state government agency.

There are certain time restrictions when filing a complaint with the EEOC. If the grievance and mediation processes are taking too long and not producing results, the victim may need to file a complaint with the EEOC prior to completing the previous processes. Keep the following time frames in mind:

  1. Federal law in most states: 180 days to file from the date of the act.
  2. Federal law in some states, such as California: 300 days to file from the date of the act.
  3. Under state law, the laws differ but will not be less than 180 days.

Once the EEOC has received the formal complaint they must complete an investigation within 180 days from the date they received the complaint. The investigation goal is to determine whether the harassment is severe or pervasive to the point that it is illegal. Hearings may take place if needed and ultimately the agency issues a final decision. Depending on this decision, legal actions may take place and the victim may decide to sue the company.

Understanding EEOC Processes

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes.

In this exercise, you will demonstrate your knowledge of EEOC.

Answer the following questions:

  1. In most states under federal law, how many days do you have to file a formal complaint with the EEOC after an act of harassment?
    1. 300
    2. 365
    3. 180
    4. 90

  2. The goal of an EEOC investigation is to determine whether the harassment is severe or __________?
    1. Pervasive
    2. Illegal
    3. Intentional

  3. Scenario 1: An employee shares a crude joke with his co-workers every morning and calls the women in his work area "sweetheart." What action would be most appropriate in this situation?
    1. File a complaint with the EEOC.
    2. File a grievance with the employer and use Four-Phase mediation.
    3. File a grievance with the employer and use Settlement Conference mediation
    4. File a lawsuit.

  4. Scenario 2: An employee is sexually harassed by a supervisor. This includes physical, unwanted behavior. The victim is embarrassed and does not want this information made public but is also emotionally scarred and wants retribution. What action would be most appropriate in this situation?
    1. File a complaint with the EEOC.
    2. File a grievance with the employer and use four-phase mediation.
    3. File a grievance with the employer and use settlement conference mediation.
    4. File a lawsuit.