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Are Sexual Harassment Complaints Confidential?

Sexual harassment complaints should be handled with the utmost confidentiality to protect the privacy and safety of the employee. However, complete confidentiality cannot always be guaranteed due to the need for thorough investigations and legal obligations.

Are Sexual Harassment Complaints Confidential?

Legal Protections 

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

FEHA is a state law that protects employees from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. It covers various protected characteristics, including race, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and age, ensuring a safe and fair work environment for all employees. 

  • FEHA mandates that employers take reasonable steps to prevent and correct harassment and discrimination. This includes having procedures in place that respect the confidentiality of the complainant.
  • Employers are required to maintain confidentiality to the extent possible during the investigation process to protect the identities of those involved.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

This federal law, enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), emphasizes the importance of confidentiality in harassment investigations. The EEOC guidelines encourage employers to limit the sharing of information to only those who need to know to conduct a thorough investigation.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers have a duty to take sexual harassment complaints seriously and handle them with discretion. Key steps to ensure confidentiality include:

Clear Policies

Employers should establish and communicate clear policies regarding the handling of harassment complaints, including the extent of confidentiality that can be expected.

Designated Reporting Channels

Implementing secure and confidential reporting channels, such as a dedicated hotline or an online reporting system, can help protect the identity of the complainant.

Limit Information Sharing

Information about the complaint should be shared only on a need-to-know basis within the organization to minimize the risk of leaks.

Why Would My Sexual Harassment Compaint Not Remain Confidential?

While confidentiality is important, there are practical challenges and legal considerations that can limit its scope:

Investigation Needs

To investigate a complaint thoroughly, some disclosure of details may be necessary. For example, witnesses or the accused must be informed of the allegations to respond adequately.

Legal Obligations

Employers may be legally required to disclose information to regulatory bodies or in response to legal proceedings.

Internal Transparency

In some cases, maintaining a certain level of transparency within the organization may be necessary to demonstrate that the complaint is being taken seriously and to uphold trust in the process.

How Can an Attorney Help Me if I Want to Keep My Sexual Harassment Complaint Confidential?

An Orange County Sexual Harassment Attorney can be instrumental in maintaining the confidentiality of your sexual harassment complaint in several ways:

Legal Guidance

An attorney can advise you on how to file your complaint in a manner that maximizes confidentiality. They can explain your rights under state laws and federal statutes.


By acting as your representative, an attorney can communicate with your employer on your behalf, reducing the risk of your identity being disclosed during the process.

Confidential Filing

Attorneys can assist in filing complaints with external agencies, such as the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), while seeking to keep your identity confidential to the extent possible.

Protective Measures

They can negotiate for protective measures, such as confidentiality agreements and non-disclosure provisions, to ensure that details of your complaint are not shared unnecessarily within the organization or with third parties.