female employee disclosing her sexual harassment to a coworker

Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace can be devastating and humiliating. After experiencing sexual harassment, confiding in a trusted workplace friend may seem harmless.  However, telling your co-worker about the sexual harassment you experienced isn’t always the best way to report sexual harassment. There are several reasons why telling your co-worker about sexual harassment could hinder your future legal claim against your employer.

If you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, the best thing you can do is speak to an employment lawyer. When you work with an experienced employment lawyer before you file a claim, your lawyer will be able to enforce your rights should your human resources department ignore or mishandle your claim. Understanding your legal rights before you submit a complaint can help you navigate the process. Before discussing the sexual harassment you’ve experienced with your co-worker, we recommend speaking to one of the experienced employment lawyers at Lipsky Lowe LLP.

Telling Your Co-worker About Sexual Harassment

You do have a right to discuss the sexual harassment you’ve experienced with your co-workers, but you should be aware of the potentially negative consequences that could occur. Whenever you discuss your sexual harassment case with a co-worker, there is always the potential that the co-worker would need to testify under oath and appear in court. Your co-worker could be responsible for answering questions under oath about your discussion with him or her. 

If you told your co-worker about the sexual harassment you experienced, your employer’s defense lawyer has the right to question him or her about what you said. While your attorney could request that the court stop the questioning, your co-worker would most likely need to testify under oath. Your co-worker may not want to testify against you and could be concerned about losing his or her job after testifying against your employer. Instead of discussing your potential sexual harassment case with your co-worker, we recommend talking about your case with your lawyer or spouse. Spouses enjoy a spousal legal privilege that allows them to avoid testifying about conversations between spouses in court.

Reporting Your Claim to Human Resources

Instead of discussing your sexual harassment case with your co-worker, you should speak to an employment lawyer or report your claim directly to your human resources department. All human resources departments should have strict policies against sexual harassment. Larger companies should provide detailed information about the process of reporting sexual harassment claims. Even if your company has a robust policy against sexual harassment, you can’t be sure that they will enforce their policy and protect you. You may not trust your human resources department, or you may have valid concerns about your employer retaliating against you for submitting a sexual harassment complaint.

A recent survey of employees showed that one out of every five workers does not trust their human resources department. One-third of those surveyed said they avoid going to their human resources department for any problem at all. Of those surveyed, 35% said they don’t trust their human resources department to help them with a legitimate concern. According to human resources employees who responded to the survey, less than 30 percent of all human resources complaints resulted in disciplinary action. One employee surveyed reported telling their human resources department about a complaint. He later discovered that the individual shared confidential information with co-workers.

Many Victims of Sexual Harassment Fear Retaliation

Suppose you tell a co-worker about the sexual harassment you’ve experienced before reporting the incident or speaking to an attorney. In that case, you risk your co-worker telling other co-workers about your experience. Should the news of your concern get back to the person engaging in sexual harassment, you could experience retaliation.

Retaliation is a serious concern among employees who’ve experienced sexual harassment. In these uncertain economic times, employees are understandably concerned that they’ll lose their jobs for reporting sexual harassment to their human resources department. Many of the employees surveyed stated that they feared retaliation from their employer should they report a complaint with the human resources department. People who experience sexual harassment in the workplace were especially concerned about retaliation from reporting the harassment. 

The Benefits of Speaking to an Employment Lawyer First

Discussing your sexual harassment case with a co-worker is tempting, especially when you’re friends with your co-worker. Your co-worker likely has an in-depth understanding of the situation and can provide you with comfort and a listening ear. Nonetheless, we recommend reaching out to an experienced employment lawyer before sharing your concerns with your co-worker. If you are considering filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer, you may feel like the cards are stacked against you. The thought of reaching out to an attorney could feel intimidating. However, the sooner you reach out to an experienced lawyer, the better.

At Lipsky Lowe LLP, our lawyers have a proven track record of obtaining compensation for sexual harassment victims in New York City. When you reach out to us, we will listen carefully to all of the facts in your case and answer the questions you have about what qualifies as sexual harassment. We will use our decades of experience to help you understand your legal options.

Our legal team can guide you through the process of filing a human resources claim. Should your employer fail to take action regarding your claim, or retaliate against you in any way, we will advocate for your rights as you navigate the situation. Our clients feel a sense of relief that they do not need to go through the reporting process alone and that we will represent their best interest.

Contact a New York City Sexual Harassment Lawyer

At Lipsky Lowe LLP,  we represent clients in some of the most challenging times of their lives. We focus our legal practice on representing employees, and we are here to represent you and your sexual harassment case. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.