Addressing Workplace Harassment: Legal Routes
No one should ever have to experience workplace harassment. Unfortunately, it’s a problem that can still be found in far too many workplaces. Luckily, if you are in this position, there are legal routes you can take to address the issue. In this article, we’ll look at the options available to people who have experienced workplace harassment and what steps they should take to ensure they get the justice they deserve.
1. Introduction to Workplace Harassment
Workplace harassment affects many employees across many industries. It comes in a variety of forms, including sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and verbal abuse. It’s an unfortunate reality of working life that must be addressed promptly and firmly. This post will discuss the legal routes one can take in order to address workplace harassment.
Reporting – The first step when dealing with workplace harassment is to document and report the incident or incidents. It is important to take down notes, keep records of emails, and any other evidence that can be used to support your case. It is also important to make sure you inform your employer or manager of the situation.
Filing a Complaint - Depending on the severity of the harassment, filing a formal complaint may be necessary. If the harassment is on the basis of a protected class (e.g. race, gender, religion, etc.) then filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or local anti-discrimination agency, can be a good way to pursue recourse.
Hiring an Attorney – If the reported incident(s) of workplace harassment hasn’t been adequately addressed, it may be necessary to seek legal representation. An experienced attorney can help in filing a lawsuit against your employer and can provide guidance on how to proceed with the case.
Seeking Damages – One of the primary goals of filing a lawsuit is to seek damages for the wrongs that have been done. If successful, the lawsuit can result in the employer being ordered to pay monetary compensation to the victim.
Preventing Future Harassment – Finally, the lawsuit can also be used to make sure that the same form of harassment does not occur in the future. By winning the case, the court can impose an order on the employer to take certain measures to ensure a workplace free from any form of discrimination or harassment.
2. Exploring Legal Avenues for Addressing Harassment
Dealing with workplace harassment can be a long and difficult process, and unfortunately the legal avenues available to you may not always be straightforward. There are a range of legal options which may be available depending on your situation, so it is important to explore all of them carefully.
Filing a Complaint: One of the most common legal routes is to file a complaint with the relevant government agency. Depending on where you live, this may be the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States, or the Health & Safety Executive in the UK. Filing a complaint requires detailed documentation and evidence, and it can be a lengthy process to complete. It is worth noting that in some countries the complaint needs to be made within a certain timeframe, so it is important to be aware of any deadlines that may apply in your situation.
Civil Action: Another legal avenue to consider is taking legal action in the form of a civil lawsuit. This requires that you seek out the services of a lawyer to represent your case in court. The downside of this option is that it can be expensive and, depending on the number of people involved and the level of complexity of the case, it could take some time before a verdict is reached.
Alternative Dispute Resolution: In some cases, it may be possible to resolve workplace harassment issues through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This involves two parties negotiating an agreement without going to court, and can be facilitated by a third party such as an experienced mediator. ADR can be a much faster and cheaper way of settling workplace disputes, and it is important to consider this as an option if you are looking for a legal approach to resolving a workplace harassment issue.
Other Avenues: There are other legal avenues for addressing workplace harassment, such as filing for a restraining order or seeking damages in a wrongful termination case. The best way to find out what your best options are is to consult a lawyer who is experienced in employment law.
3. Working with Employers to Create Policy Changes
Unfortunate incidents of workplace harassment are common occurrences these days, and legal routes offer powerful options for fighting against the act. Here are some legal paths for addressing workplace harassment:
- Civil Court: This is the most popular option, and allows victims to recover money from harassers for pain and suffering, or other losses resulting from harassment. These cases are filed in a civil court directly.
- Human Resources: Although not a legal measure, victims can still complain to their HR departments when they are facing any form of harassment. The HR department is equipped to investigate the claim and take necessary action against the harasser.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Victims can file a complaint with this federal agency if their employers failed to take any action about their complaint or lied or retaliated against them. This agency is responsible for enforcing laws and policies prohibiting workplace harassment.
- State Lawsuits: State laws vary and some may be more favorable to victims of harassment. Victims can pursue claims in their state courts for damages, back pay, and punitive damages. In some cases attorney fees are also recoverable.
Victims can also approach a qualified lawyer to determine if their case qualifies for a legal remedy against workplace harassment. Such a qualified lawyer can advise initial steps that need to be taken and can help you decide what route would work best in your case.
Employers are encouraged to create explicit policies prohibiting any form of harassment in the workplace. Such policies can make victims of harassment more comfortable in coming forward with their complaints. Establishing a zero-tolerance policy is highly recommended, as it will help to discourage harassers and ensure that everyone in a workplace is aware of the consequences of harassment in advance. Victims of harassment should be informed that complaint channels are confidential and be given the assurance that retaliation will not occur.
4. Filing a Formal Harassment Complaint
Investigate the matter First
- Gather evidence to back up your allegations of workplace harassment. Look for emails, text messages, voice messages, notes, photographs, sound recordings, etc.
- Consult witnesses to the said incident.
- Document and report the incident immediately. This allows for an organization to track and investigate your complaint effectively.
Reporting the Harassment:
- Identify the right person to whom the complaint should be reported. Know the proper protocol on how to report an incident such as this.
- When bringing forward a complaint, it is important to be specific and provide detailed information about the harassment. Include the date of the incident, the circumstances, and names of all involved.
- Be aware of any time frames and deadlines required in order for the complaint to be actionable.
- Be aware of any potential repercussions that may arise from filing a formal complaint.
After Filing a Complaint:
- Have patience and provide cooperation while the investigation is in progress.
- Keep a record of all interactions between yourself and the investigator — this will help you to protect your rights should any legal action take place.
- Request for a copy of the investigation report.
- If the organization decides to take action against the harasser, ensure that proper disciplinary steps are taken.
- If the organization does not respond to your complaint or if you are unsatisfied with their resolution, consider taking legal action. This could include filing a complaint with a government agency or possibly a lawsuit.
- Be aware of any applicable laws, regulations, and policies that may apply to your case.
- It is important to do research into the laws and regulations in order to determine what specific actions you may be able to take.
- Take into consideration filing a complaint with an appropriate federal or state agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- Contact an experienced lawyer to determine your legal options and how best to proceed.
5. Remembering your Rights in a Harassment Situation
No matter where or when it occurs, workplace harassment is unacceptable and illegal. People have the right to be shielded from being psychologically, physically or sexually abused in any form. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s important to remember your rights.
- Recording: Keep a written record of all conversations and incidents that makes you feel uncomfortable. This record can help to hold the other person accountable, and will aid in any future lawsuits or inquiries.
- Seek Support: Talk to a friend or trusted colleague, or reach out for counseling. It helps to feel understood and give you a support system to work with.
- Reporting: Let somebody in power know about the situation. Depending on the company’s policy, they might take official disciplinary action, or even legal action. There might also be a dedicated Human Resources (HR) department.
- Lawyers: Taking legal action is always an option, particularly if the harassment is severe or endangers your safety or livelihood. An employment lawyer can help understand the situation better and take action.
It is important to note that some companies might have preventative protocols to deal with harassment such as an employee assistance hotline or anonymous reporting systems. Taking the initiative for harassment prevention can lead to reform and protect other workers as well.
Lastly, it’s important to document not just the incidents, but also the consequences. This can help prove any form of discrimination you might be facing. The more evidence you have, the better case you can make for yourself in the future.
6. Options after a Legal Complaint is Filed
If a workplace harassment complaint has been raised, an employee has the right to take action, the first of those being to lodge a legal complaint. This can be done either through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States, or through respective agencies found in other countries. It is essential to know how to properly file a legal complaint when facing workplace harassment:
- Look for the relevant agency: It is important to look for the organization in charge of handling workplace harassment complaints in the area. In the majority of countries, an independent public authority should have been set up, with its contact details and complaint procedures easily accessible.
- Prepare evidence: Any evidence such as emails, text messages, recording, videos, and recorded conversations should be gathered and used as proof when filing the complaint. They should be presented in a way that will assist the organization in building their case.
- Compile documents: Every important document related to the case should be filed along with the complaint – the better the level of detail, the more likely the case will be taken seriously.
- File the complaint: Once all the sections of the complaint have been organized and evidence has been prepared, the complainant should file with the relevant certification. The documents required by a legal body may vary from country to country, so ensure all the necessary documents are collected before submission.
Once the complaint is filed, the process of challenging workplace harassment in court begins. Depending on the workplace and the specific case, different legal actions can be taken. The complainant can request a court order to stop the harassment, seek damages or compensation, or other remedies. It all depends on the severity of the problem and the nature of the harassment.
Ultimately, taking a legal route when tackling workplace harassment is often the wiser step to take, due to the complicated nature of such cases.
7. Key Takeaways from Addressing Harassment in the Workplace
1. Consult legal counsel: It is essential to engage an attorney knowledgeable about harassment and legal rights to help you navigate the complexities of employee rights and organizational policies. The guidance of a lawyer experienced in workplace harassment law is important to ensure your organization is compliant with governing employment laws.
2. Address the problem: Address the source of the problem, whether it’s an individual, a group of colleagues, or a workplace environment. First, review organization policies for reporting and responding to harassment. Communicate your concerns to the target of the offending behavior and document it. If necessary, notify the Organization if it warrants further action.
3. Provide Support: Provide support to victims of workplace harassment, such as offering an alternative place to work, transfer opportunities, or other resources. Furthermore, offer counseling sessions or other forms of assistance to help the victim cope with the situation and work through it.
4. Educate Employees: Stationwide training is important in order to prevent the occurrence of harassment in the workplace. Regular education of all employees is critical to provide comprehensive understanding of all harassment policies and procedures.
5. Take Action: Organizations must take concrete action to show that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. This may include revoking privileges, suspensions, or recruitment of outside experts to investigate. Additionally, modern organizations must step up to create a more inclusive workplace culture and environment.
6. Stay Up to Date: Organizations must stay up to date on the latest employment laws and regulatory rules. Additionally, knowledge of current norms for respectful workplace behavior is necessary to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all employees.
7. Improve Policies: Organizations must review and improve their policies to ensure that any form of harassment is handled in accordance with the law. Policies should be clear on what acceptable and unacceptable behavior is, how to report incidents, and how those reports are handled. When it comes to addressing workplace harassment, there are a number of legal routes you can pursue. Consulting with a legal professional may help you make the most informed decision for your own situation. No matter what path you end up taking, know that you are not alone in this journey and are supported by diverse communities.