Harassment in the workplace can be an extremely stressful and traumatic experience. While incidents of workplace harassment don’t often make it to the news, they are a common occurrence. Women and men routinely endure harassment and discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
Harassment refers to any type of unwanted behavior – verbal or physical – based on an individual’s personal characteristics. Harassment in the workplace is not just inappropriate but also prohibited by state and federal laws. A vast majority of workplace harassment incidents go unreported. The law protects employees from workplace harassment.
Examples of workplace harassment include offensive jokes, slurs, racial epithets, name calling, physical threats, intimidation, insults, offensive objects or pictures or any type of constant harassment that interferes with one’s job performance. The victim doesn’t have to be the person who has been directly harassed. Anyone who is affected by the offensive or harassing conduct can be considered the victim under the law. Also, the victim does not have to suffer economic harm for the offense to be considered harassment.
Dealing with Workplace Harassment
If you have been harassed or discriminated against in the workplace, here are a few valuable tips for dealing with the incidents effectively.
Make use of the resources that are available. One of the first steps you should take is to refer to your company’s employee handbook. Contact the human resources department or the appropriate person in the company and file an internal complaint. If you find them to be non-responsive or hostile, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC to speak with a counselor. It might also be in your best interest to contact an Orange County workplace harassment lawyer who can help guide you regarding your legal rights and options.
Report incidents of harassment right away. If you have been harassed at work, report the incident or incidents to your supervisor or the person within your company who has been designated to deal with these matters. Check to see if your company has policies or protocols to report workplace harassment, and follow them closely. Maintain copies of any written complaints you make to your employer.
Document any incidents of harassment. As soon as you experience harassment, write down precisely what occurred. Be as specific as possible including documenting dates, places, times and potential witnesses. Be as accurate and as objective as possible. Don’t keep these records at work, but at some other safe location where you will have access to it and where you can be assured it won’t get destroyed or lost.
When it comes to documenting harassment, context is very important. Be specific about the type of incident. If the harassment is written or recorded, save copies for your records. The more detailed your documentation, the more likely you are to be able to demonstrate a pattern of persistent harassment.
Consult with other colleagues you can trust. It is very likely that other employees have experienced similar harassment and/or discrimination. Ask your colleagues to document incidents and report their own incidents. Banding together with colleagues will ensure that you have strength in numbers and may help protect you against retaliation.
Get witnesses to help corroborate your statements. If it is possible, talk to co-workers who might have witnessed your harassment. You may be able to find individuals who have been harassed by the same individual or those who would be willing to support your case. The testimony of eyewitnesses can be extremely valuable to your case. Also, think about all the information you might need to strengthen your case. This might include any memos, emails, texts and other communications, which serve as valuable evidence.
Assert yourself. Standing up against harassment can be a daunting challenge. But, it might be important to demonstrate that you are capable and have the courage to speak up on your behalf and make sure your voice is heard. If you don’t assert yourself, the harassing behavior might continue. One way to do this might be to be specific about how the harasser’s actions are affecting you and your ability to do your job effectively.
See if you can find a new job. Sometimes, the only way you can stop workplace harassment is to simply walk away. You may need to start looking for a new job. While it might feel frightening to have to leave your job because of someone else’s wrongdoing, sometimes, the stress of making a change might be better than the trauma of being constantly harassed. You can still file a complaint against your employer seeking compensation for your losses.
File a complaint with the EEOC. If you don’t trust your company’s process, it is important that you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to make sure that your legal rights are protected. Filing with the EEOC is required before you can file a lawsuit against your employer. Typically, such lawsuits should be filed within 180 days of the harassing act occurring.
Remain calm. While it’s natural to get flustered and stressed out after the incident, it is important to remain focused on your job and continue to maintain meticulous records of your performance as well as the harassment. See if you can obtain support from friends and family members. This could help provide emotional and moral support as you go through a difficult time.
Self-care is important. Your personal well-being may have an impact on your ability to cope with workplace harassment. If you are not eating, sleeping and caring for your physical health, it may become more difficult for you to cope with other pressures. Take time to care for yourself. In addition to getting the support of family and friends, get involved in hobbies, social activities and perhaps even charity work that can give you tremendous peace of mind and a sense of self-worth.
Contact an experienced Orange County employment lawyer. If you have been harassed at work, it is important that you contact an experienced attorney who can help you hold the at-fault parties accountable and help you secure compensation for your losses such as lost income, lost opportunities such as promotions and job training, and emotional distress.