You would think that you'd be able to go to work, do your job and come home without dealing with some sort of harassment during the work day. Unfortunately, workplace harassment is an all-too-common problem in California and elsewhere. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives thousands complaints regarding workplace harassment every single year.
If you find yourself the victim of harassment in the workplace, what can you do about it? Is there a right way to approach it? What can you do to protect yourself?
Report, report, report
Workplace harassment comes in many forms. It goes beyond teasing, off-handed comments or just rude behavior. It must be either one serious event that left you feeling that your workplace is a hostile environment or frequent incidents that make it difficult for you to do your job. If you feel you're the victim of workplace harassment, the best thing you can do is report the issue to your employer. Your employer has a legal responsibility to investigate the matter.
Documentation is key
To help your case, documentation is key. Harassment cases are difficult to handle because it is often one person's word against another person's word. Documenting incidents of harassment can help victims prove their case and seek compensation for any resulting losses. What type of information should one document?
- A description of the harassment you experienced
- Date of harassment
- Time of incident
- Location where the incident occurred
- Names of people involved
- Witness names and contact information
- How the event made you feel and affected your work
If harassment is not happening in person but via written communication, saving any emails, memos and unwanted gifts can also help your case.
Along with documenting the incidents of harassment and saving any evidence, you can protect yourself by saving your performance evaluations and documenting the actions you take to stop the harassment. This information may prove valuable if you end up fired for reporting the issue to your employer.
If you have done everything in your power to stop workplace harassment and your employer is not taking the matter seriously, you have the right to file a legal complaint against your employer and the people behind the harassment. The EEOC can look into the matter and take action against employers who fail to stop harassment in the workplace.
Along with filing a complaint with the EEOC, you may be able to file a civil action in an effort to seek compensation for any damages sustained, resulting from the harassment -- whether they are economic or non-economic in nature. An experienced employment law attorney may be able to represent you.