Many people have experienced harassment in the workplace, but might have been afraid to speak up, or were not aware of their options to stop the offender. Here are six options for some actions that a victim might be able to take.
Many times, victims of harassment grin and bear the inappropriate treatment in an attempt to be polite, or out of fear of the harasser retaliating. Sometimes it might be enough to address the harasser up front, making it clear that you do not appreciate their behavior and asking them to stop. It is helpful that you do so in writing, such as in an email, so that your interaction with your harasser is documented. Also, it is very important that you address the issue plainly and professionally. If there is any way that your employer can view your admonishment in a negative light, it might negatively affect your situation and progress later.
A first step for this might be checking your employee handbook to see if your organization has an established protocol on how to report inappropriate behavior. If your company does not have an outlined policy on reporting harassment, you might speak with an HR representative, a higher-level manager, or even someone from the board of directors.
It is usually best to make a complaint in writing so there is no miscommunication and so that your conversation is properly documented. Be sure to give a detailed explanation, and describe how it is affecting you and your work and that you want the behavior to cease immediately.
Make physical notes of what has happened, including times, dates, and any possible witnesses. If you have received emails or text messages that are inappropriate, it is important to keep these messages and not delete or alter them in any way. If you are keeping these notes electronically, store them on a home computer or a flash drive, not a work computer.
**Note** If you do keep a written record of the incidents, your notes are probably “discoverable,” meaning if the situation escalates to a lawsuit, the defending attorney can see them. If your notes are written specifically to prepare for filing a lawsuit, or in “contemplation of litigation,” they aren’t discoverable. It may be important to write the exact words “in contemplation of litigation” on your notes to keep them from being turned over to the attorney defending your harasser.
If the behavior of the harasser is known among several individuals in the company, find multiple people that are willing to come forward. You’re much more likely to be believed immediately and get your company to take action if you can get other voices with similar stories to be heard.
A Charge of Discrimination is a formal statement that your employer has discriminated against you. If you end up filing a lawsuit, it may be required that you must first have filed a complaint with the EEOC. Deadlines apply to filing complaints, and missing these deadlines can bar your claims. It is important to act quickly and not delay in seeking legal counsel.
You may be required to go through the EEOC’s complaint process before you can file a lawsuit. It is important to consult with an employment law attorney and allow them to guide you through the process.
If you or someone you know is experiencing harassment in the workplace, please reach out to an employment law attorney to learn more about the legalities of your situation and your options.
Henn Haworth Cummings + Page Law has many years of experience with harassment cases. You may reach out to their office at 317-885-0041 or email Sharon.Miles@hhcfirm.com for a no charge assessment of your case or situation.