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Harassment in the Workplace

It’s a story that has been told in nearly every news cycle during the past few months. It was a common thread at this year’s Golden Globes. It launched the #MeToo movement, and the Time’s Up campaign. And it’s not isolated in the fields of entertainment, politics, or anywhere else. It’s harassment in the workplace, and it affects people of all sexes, races, and ages. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35% of United States workers reported being bullied at work.

Harassment is a physical or emotional form of discrimination that is described as unwelcome contact based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. Harassment becomes unlawful when:
1) Enduring the harassment becomes a condition of continued employment
2) The conduct has created a work environment that a reasonable person would consider to be intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

If you experience harassment at work, you should report the harassment immediately to your supervisor. Of course, if your supervisor is your harasser, you should go straight to your human resources (HR) department. HR employees should immediately launch an investigation into your claims, interviewing you, the person you’re accusing, and any potential witnesses.

When you meet with human resources, come prepared with documentation. If you have voice mails, emails, texts, or chats that can serve as evidence of harassment, take screen shots and print them to bring to your meeting. If a witness heard the conversation, ask him or her to write a statement as well, that you can take to HR. In addition, document your meeting with HR – the employee you met, when the meeting took place, and what the HR rep said the next steps would be. Follow up with HR as necessary.

Keep in mind that you may not be the only victim. Pay attention to your harasser’s interactions with other employees. As we have seen in the news lately, one person making a claim can be ignored, but multiple voices joining together can be powerful.

Once you file a complaint with HR, you will have to wait and see what happens. The employer isn’t responsible for firing the harasser, but the employer is required to make the harassment stop. If your workplace environment does not improve, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

If your company fails you and the harassment continues, contact us to discuss your options.

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