Never Use Your Work Email to Document Harassment

Here's a hard truth you need to understand:

Your company's HR—no matter how nice, understanding, or empathetic—isn't employed to help you. They're employed to protect the company.That's why anyone who wants to hold their supervisor accountable for sexual harassment needs to be careful about when they report sexual harassment. If your HR department hears about your plans too early, they may decide to side with your harasser—and they'll start building a case to discredit you while claiming to be helping you!

That's why I always tell clients: never, ever use work emails or work computers to record instances of sexual harassment. Your employer has legal right to view emails written and received within its own database—and it's frightfully easy for your employer to pull up your emails with co-workers, your harasser, or even notes emailed to yourself.

(Even if they don't have the legal right, they probably have the technological capability—which is still bad news for you).

The Only Good Way to Document Harassment

The best way to record harassment against you is to use a personal email at home on a personal computer. Here's why:

If you're building a case against your workplace harasser, then you need a record of what happened and when it happened. Every email is tied to a specific date and time, which builds a better case. Every time your harasser mistreats you or creates a hostile work environment, wait until you get home, write it in an email, and send it to yourself.

The best part? Your personal email (and on a personal computer) gives your employer no legal right to read what you've written. Writing it down in a journal is nice, but diaries are not electronically timestamped the way that an email is.

What You Need to Do Today

If you're being sexually harassed at work, create a Gmail or Yahoo account—or use the one you already have. Write down everything that's happened to you thus far (with as many dates as you can remember), and make a commitment to yourself to record every new instance on the day it happens.

If you've already used your work email to discuss sexual harassment, there's nothing you can do about it. Even if you delete it, there's no guarantee that your employer won't have access to it. The best thing is to stop discussing it at work, even with friends.

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