Do I need to report harassment when it happens?
Generally, failing to report such harassment may seriously impair an employee’s ability to pursue legal action against an employer. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant can have an affirmative defense against a harassment claim if an employee “unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.” Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 118 S. Ct. 2257 (1998)
The Ellerth ruling encouraged employers to put in place policies forbidding harassment and procedures for filing complaints, investigating complaints and discipline for those found to have harassed others. Depending on the facts of the situation, failing to report harassment may not necessarily be fatal to a legal claim against the employer, but it is something that ideally should be done.