Sexual Harassment Claims and the Tension of Maintaining Confidentiality While Seeking Support

By Kathleen Peratis

Suing your boss is just about the most stressful thing you can do, especially when you are claiming sexual harassment. Once you make such a claim, you can be sure your employer will say one of two things: either he will claim that nothing inappropriate ever happened, and Therefore you are delusional, or he will admit that something happened, but, whatever it was, it was either trivial or consensual (or both) and so you are a liar and a slut.

Being called names and being the target of a smear campaign is very painful, so much so that it causes many women to decide not to stick their heads up at all, to just walk away from their claims. In forty years of practicing law, I think I would say that the majority of women who have a good claim decide not to make a claim at all.

But some call it differently-they decide that despite the stress and the risk, they need at least to try to vindicate their rights, if for no There reason than it is the right thing to do.

If you decide to be one of those women, one of the things you will need most is the support-the active and engaged support-of friends and family, of a women’s support group, of your best friends. You will want and need to be able to talk openly and freely about what happened to you and what you are now going through with the lies that are being told about you.

But here is the rub: Your lawyer will tell you NOT to talk about it with anybody! She or he will tell you not to email, not to post on your Facebook page, not to tweet, not to speak at all about what happened to you nor about what is going on in your legal claim. You are told, in effect, to enter a cone of silence about what occurred at work and about your complaints because anything you say can and will be used against you.

So what are you to do?

First, I agree with the advice and I often give it myself. Every time you tell the story, it will be slightly different and those differences allow a good defense lawyer to make you look like you can’t keep your story straight.

However, I also know that support is crucial to your ability to withstand the onslaught of a determined and lying defendant. You cannot go through it alone.

There is no one right answer, There is no perfect answer. The only honest answer is that you will have hard choices to make and you should make them in consultation with your lawyer. It is her or his job to make sure you have full information, that you understand the risks and consequences, the rewards and benefits, and, in light of that information, you decide what is best for you.

For more information about sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation click here.

Please visit the professional bio of Kathleen Peratis at the Outten & Golden LLP website.