Legal Advice for Employees Being Harassed at Work
Workplace harassment is an unfortunately common occurrence. While the vast majority of workers are committed and trustworthy colleagues, there are some who will take advantage of that trust.
Harassment takes many forms, from subtle put-downs to blatant discrimination and physical threats. It can affect employees of any age, education level, race, gender, or sexual orientation. And, it’s not only from other employees—coworkers and managers can also be harassers.
If you’ve been the target of harassment at work, you may be wondering what you can do about it. Here’s some legal advice for employees being harassed at work & how to hire a New York City Employment Lawyer.
What is Workplace Harassment?
Harassment is unwanted conduct based on race, color, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, disability, religion, among other factors. It can include things like demeaning comments, jokes at others’ expense, stalking, sexual images, displays of affection that are unwelcome, and physical intimidation.
While sexual harassment has become a more widely recognized and talked about issue, the laws that protect workers from harassment are the same laws that protect against sexual harassment. The difference is that sexual harassment has been given a more specific name to make it easier for workers to understand and understand their rights.
How to Recognize Workplace Harassment
If you’ve been the target of workplace harassment, you may have a clearer idea of what to look for. The first step is to recognize the behavior for what it is: harassment. The easiest way to do this is to pay attention to your own experience and see if you notice any of the signs listed below.
If you notice any of these signs of harassment, don’t ignore them—report them to HR or your manager as soon as possible.
You’ve been the target of insults or put-downs. You’re the only one who has to deal with the behaviors listed above. You can’t point out when something is inappropriate or when someone crosses the line. Even if nobody else notices the behavior, it’s still inappropriate.
You’ve had your performance reviews negatively affected. Maybe you’ve noticed that your work isn’t getting done—or your work isn’t getting done as quickly as it should be. Your manager should have a positive relationship with you—not have a bad reputation for unfairly giving you negative reviews.
The Legal Steps You Can Take
You can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that investigates and attempts to remedy discrimination and harassment in the workplace. If the EEOC finds that you have a case, they will help you file a lawsuit.
You can also file a lawsuit against the company yourself. This is the most common way that workplace harassment cases are resolved, and it’s what you’re likely to do if you don’t want to file a complaint with the EEOC.
Before you file a lawsuit, though, you must be very sure of your case—and you must have documentation to prove your case. You’ll want to collect any and all evidence you can to support your case, including:
- Emails between you and your harasser - Copies of any documents that show your harasser was acting inappropriately - Copies of any texts, emails, or other communication between you and your harasser - Any witness statements - Any documentation that proves your workplace environment was hostile
Your employer has a duty of care
Your employer has a duty to maintain a workplace environment where harassment is not allowed. If you are subjected to harassment, your employer has the duty to take steps to remedy the situation—including, if necessary, removing the harasser from the workplace.
If your employer doesn’t take these steps, you have the right to sue them for damages. In addition to damages related to your emotional distress, you can also collect damages related to any pay you were not able to earn because of the harassment.
Don’t put up with harassment. As uncomfortable as it might be, you have the right to report the behavior, take steps to protect yourself, and not be afraid in the workplace. You don’t have to put up with harassment—and you don’t have to stay silent about it, either.
If you’ve been harassed, you haven’t done anything wrong. You have a right to a safe and respectful workplace, and your employer is your partner in making that happen.
But it’s important to remember that harassment is about power and control, not about content. If your harasser has a position of power, then the best way to protect yourself is to report the behavior and take steps to protect yourself. You don’t have to put up with harassment.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve been the target of workplace harassment, you may be wondering what you can do about it. Here’s some legal advice for employees being harassed at work.
First, be sure that you’ve been the target of harassment and that it’s illegal. Second, remember that harassment can be subtle as well as overt, so be careful to notice the signs. And last, remember that harassment is about power and control, not about content—if your harasser has a position of power, then the best way to protect yourself is to report the behavior and take steps to protect yourself.