Both state and federal civil laws protect employees from being harassed in the workplace. If you find you are unable to do your job because of the way you are being treated by your supervisor, coworkers, or even in some cases customers' comments, you might be able to file a lawsuit in court for compensation. Before your complaint is taken seriously you will have to provide enough evidence to prove the harassment took place.
What is the Definition of Harassment?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), harassment is a form of employment discrimination which violates several acts, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).
Harassment is defined by the EEOC as unwelcome behavior towards an individual or a group based on color, race, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, or pregnancy), religion, national origin, disability, older age (starting at age 40), or genetic information, including any family medical history. Petty teasing, which isn’t prolonged, may not get to the point that it is considered to be harassment but it may become illegal if it persists and the victim(s) are forced to put up with the offensive behavior and have to endure it as a condition of employment. A second instance of harassment which is illegal is when the conduct of the harasser(s) is so severe that it creates a work environment that any reasonable individual would consider hostile, intimidating, or abusive.
Anti-discrimination employment laws also prohibit harassment taking place of any employees who have been victims of retaliation by their employer because they have filed a discrimination charge, testified, or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit covered by employment laws that expose the employer’s behavior in relation to employees who possess a protected feature or who have exposed their employer’s employment practices and have proof that the employer has discriminated against some workers.
What Evidence Do I Need Help Support My Workplace Harassment Claim?
The commonest ways of telling your employer about the harassment is by writing a polite complaint letter describing the harassment. However, you will need to include as much evidence as you can with the letter to help ensure that your complaint is taken seriously.
The sorts of evidence that may help to support your workplace harassment may include the following:
- documents like emails, text messages, comments made on social media;
- Intra-office communications that shows signs of harassment;
- testimonies from co-workers who have been treated in a similar way;
- testimonies written by witnesses who saw the way you were treated;
- physical evidence such as photos or objects that were used to harass you;
- your log detailing the harassment events;
- copies of complaints you have may have already filed with your employer and any responses you received;
- medical records or a report written by your doctor or psychiatrist about how the harassment had caused harm to you.
The evidence you file shouldn’t just be related to the odd comment made by a co-worker as you will need some evidence that the harassment is more than just a one off event.
If you want your harassment case to be successful, you are required to prove that it was both persistent and repetitive.
The only way to ensure your evidence is suitable is to record all harassing comments, take photos of behavior so that you can create visual images and other events in some sort of log that you can present as evidence.
You should make note of when any harassment occurred as well as the names of any witnesses. Write down information like the date, time and location of the incident as well as any events that took place leading up to the harassment.
How Do I File a Workplace Harassment Claim?
As soon as you have gathered all the evidence you can about the workplace harassment and in order for it to be classified as illegal, it has to be based on your membership of a protected class which is found in state and federal laws. The harassment must be severe, relentless and repetitive and not just one isolated event, such as if a co-worker blurts out an insensitive comment to you in the workplace.
But if that same person makes comments that are discriminatory over a long period of time and are because you are a member of a protected class, this could mean you have the right to file a harassment claim.
The best way to begin the workplace harassment claim is to write a complaint letter to your boss or your employer’s Human Resources department. You should start to complain as soon as the first hint of harassment has taken place.
The HR department will record your complaint and it must ask the harasser to explain the harassment. You can also send an email to your harasser to show you object and ask that the harassment is stopped.
In the email, you should mention the exact date and time of the harassment and where it took place. All communication with the harasser should be saved for later use as evidence in court. This should include emails, text messages and voicemail.
If your harassment claim goes to court, you will be able to use your email record or your conversations with the harasser as evidence to prove in court that there was a harasser present. Your witnesses can vouch that the conversations took place.
How Do I Prove Workplace Harassment in Court?
Sexual harassment can include "sexual harassment" or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. The employee must show that the sexual harassment happened more than once and sufficient evidence needs to be provided to prove to the court that the sexual harassment took place. It can be challenging to prove that sexual harassment took place. Some of the evidence that can help prove you were sexually harassed can include any of the following:
- witness statements revealing that sexual harassment took place;
- proof of emails and texts from the perpetrator;
- camera footage etc. taken from surveillance cameras.
You must prove in court the following:
- you are a member of a protected group;
- you were the subject of unwanted sexual requests or advances;
- the requests or advances were based on sex;
- your agreement to the sexual act was a condition of you being given job benefits, or your refusal to engage in the sexual activity caused a job detriment.
It can be difficult to prove sexual harassment when you get to court as you must prove in court you were subjected to unwelcome harassment of a sexual nature and that it was so severe that it had a negative impact on your ability to do your job as it created a hostile environment. Also, you must prove your employer knew or should have known that the harassment was occurring but failed to do anything about it. Finally, you will need evidence available to prove you were harassed via email messages, video recordings, written statements, etc. It is a good idea to contact an employer attorney to help you navigate the process and get the compensation you deserve.
Can I Get Help Gathering Evidence For My Workplace Harassment Claim?
It is never easy to gather evidence about workplace harassment so whatever you have managed to acquire you should keep in a safe place so that it is ready to be used if you are called to go to court. A lawyer may be able to help gather evidence and answer questions you have.
If you are finding all the events following the workplace harassment too much but you want to win a workplace harassment claim, a lawyer may be able to help you through the claims process. Fill out the Free Case Evaluation to get in touch with a lawyer that takes cases in your state.