Everyone deserves to have a safe and respectable workplace. But that isn’t always the case. In fact, violence and harassment at work affect around one in five people globally. With the issues employers still have with enforcing anti-harassment policies in the workplace, it’s really no surprise that workplace harassment cases continue to surface year after year.
What many people who haven’t been a victim of harassment don’t understand is that it can happen to anyone. In fact, it’s most common for victims of workplace harassment to be a part of a protected group. Protected classes include but are not limited to race, sex, religion, age, or disability. When people harass you about a characteristic you have that you cannot change, nor choose to have, it’s understandable that your work can suffer. More than that, you can undergo emotional and psychological stress. Someone should be held responsible for helping you recover. You should not be alone, and you are not alone.
You can and you should file a workplace harassment complaint. If you’re unsure of what this is, it is necessary to speak with a qualified workplace harassment lawyer for help.
Definition and Examples of Different Forms of Workplace Harassment Cases
Workplace harassment is considered unwelcome physical or verbal behavior based on your sex, age, race, national origin, disability, religion, or other characteristics. In other words, harassment can be offensive jokes, slurs or name-calling, insults, physical assaults and/or threats, intimidation, retaliation, and showing offensive pictures or objects.
One of, if not the most common type of workplace harassment is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment involves asking for sexual favors, making unwanted sexual advances, and any other unwelcomed sexual behavior. But you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you face harassment, speak with a workplace harassment lawyer as soon as possible. We can help you take the right legal action based on your situation.
Understanding Workplace Harassment Laws
The good news is there are several federal workplace harassment laws across the country. The following federal laws govern workplace harassment across all states.
- The Civil Rights Act
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- The Americans with Disability Act (ADA)
But these laws are often applicable under specific circumstances. The Civil Rights Act and ADA apply to employers with at least 15 or more employees. The ADEA applies to employers with at least 20 or more employees.
That said, there are no workplace harassment laws covering employers with fewer employees than this in many states. If that’s the case, you may or may not have a legal claim.
What Can You Do?
What can you do if you face workplace harassment? Of course, the first step is to speak with an attorney at your earliest convenience. From there, we can walk you through the steps of first talking to your employer, and then properly responding if they don’t work to protect you. But you also need to understand the follow the procedure outlined by the workplace harassment laws in your state.
In Georgia for example – one of our locations – there are different groups that govern workplace harassment reports. These include the Georgia Equal Employment Division (EED) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), among others. Here are the steps involved in this process.
Step 1: Document the Incidents
Documenting the incidents is critical before placing your workplace harassment complaint. Firstly, it provides a clear record of the harassment. Secondly, it helps to preserve important details that may fade from your memory over time.
So, record the dates, times, and locations of each incident. Also, record the details of harassment, such as what was said or done. Most importantly, collect supporting evidence such as emails, text messages, and witness statements. They can help strengthen your claim.
Step 2: Review Your Company Policies and Reporting Procedures
Every company should have a workplace harassment policy. It should clearly outline the steps in placing a workplace harassment complaint, including the contact person. Take your time to read and understand it thoroughly. Identify the right person or department where you can report your harassment incidents. If it’s not clear, you can bring it to a consultation with one of our attorneys.
Step 3: Follow the Internal Reporting Process
Next, follow the internal reporting process carefully. It may change depending on the size of your organization. But this process usually involves:
- Meeting with the designated person or department.
- Providing a detailed account of the harassment incidents.
- Submitting a formal workplace harassment complaint.
- Providing any documentation or evidence supporting your complaint.
If you can show that you followed the process and your employer did not follow through, that helps your case. Even if they attempt to follow through, their inability to do so successfully will help your case.
Step 5: File a Complaint with Appropriate External Agency
At this point, you want to file a complaint with an external agency. For this example, when it comes to workplace harassment in Georgia, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Labor or the EEOC. But if you are a State of Georgia employee, you must first file a complaint with the Georgia Equal Employment Division (EED). Many other states will have similar or equivalent organizations that we can help you identify and file with.
You must file the complaint with the EEOC or EED within 180 days from the latest incident of harassment. Then the agency will investigate your case.
Step 6: Cooperate with the External Investigation
You must cooperate with the external investigation. Remember, your willingness to cooperate can work in your favor. Always keep the following in mind:
- Respond promptly to any requests or inquiries from the external agency.
- Provide any additional evidence or documentation required for the investigation.
- Maintain open communication with the agency throughout the process.
Step 7: Take Legal Action if Necessary
As mentioned before, most workplace harassment cases are complicated. The internal or external investigation may not be satisfactory. When that happens, you can seek legal action with the help of an attorney.
Usually, you can file a lawsuit after receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. You typically will have 90 days from the date of receiving the letter to file a lawsuit in federal court. But you should speak with a seasoned lawyer first. They will go through your formal workplace harassment complaint and the investigation process and help you take the next step.
Contact the Employment Law Attorneys at Barrett & Farahany
Workplace harassment can happen to anyone, anywhere. The perpetrator can be your boss, coworker, or someone who frequently visits your workplace, including vendors, contractors, or even customers. You should speak up against workplace harassment and protect your rights. Hopefully, this post will help you understand how to file a complaint against harassment and when to seek help from a workplace harassment lawyer.
Are you facing workplace harassment? Our experienced lawyers can help you get the justice you deserve. Contact us to learn more.