Workplace harassment, slander and bullying may be illegal under the terms of civil rights legislation such as Title VII, The Americans with Disabilities Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, if the slander or harassment occurs as a result of your race, gender, sex, religion or age. In other circumstances, criminal laws may apply if the bullying rises to the level of assault. Generally, your employer will also have policies against such behavior as well. Thus, if you are the victim or observer of bullying, slander or harassment, you should report the incidents.
Document the behavior. When possible, it is best to keep a detailed record or log of any improper behavior that you observe. This can help the proper authorities to take action or, if you decide to sue, can help you to build your case. You should be very specific in what you write down and make sure you write down all the instances of improper behavior. For example, if a coworker calls you a name on Monday morning, then write down: "Monday morning, 10 a.m., John Smith," and the name he called you. If someone then does some other harassing or bullying behavior at 11:00 a.m. on that same day, write that in the journal as well. Any instance of bullying or harassment should be recorded along with the date, the time, the specifics of the event, what was said, the person doing the action and any witnesses to the event. If anything is in writing, keep the written records. If you make any complaints to anyone within the organization, keep detailed written records of exactly who you complained to and when.
Contact your human resources department. The HR department can take action to stop the problem or, alternatively, can let you know who to talk to. Your HR department is likely required by law (depending on where you live) and/or by the company handbook to keep your report confidential as well. If you don't have a dedicated HR department, consult your company handbook or your boss to find out what the appropriate procedures are. When you go to your HR department, take your records of bullying or harassing behavior along with you. Explain exactly who is doing the improper behavior, when and how often it occurs, who knows about it and any effect it has had on your work. Show human resources your log of bullying or harassing statements and be detailed and specific in explaining the problem and answering any questions they have.
Contact the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Labor if the behavior is based on race, gender, national origin, color, religion, age or other protected classes. The EEOC can investigate and can help you put a stop to improper behavior that is occurring. Charges and complaints can be filed by mail, by phone or in person with the nearest EEOC office. You can contact 800-669-4000 or 800-669-6820 to find the EEOC office nearest to where you live. Charges cannot be filed online as of 2010.
Contact the police if the bullying or harassment rises to the level that it violates criminal law. No one is permitted to threaten you or physically harm you. If they do, the police will act. You may also be able to get a restraining order and/or other help from the police or courts if the person harassing you is guilty of criminal harassment under the laws of your jurisdiction.
Speak with a lawyer. If you are a victim of illegal or improper harassment, and your company didn't help you or have proper procedures in place for you to get help, your employer can be held legally liable for damages--including pain and suffering--that you experienced. However, this is generally true only if the harassment or bullying is based upon one of the factors protected by Title VII or various other worker protection laws, such as laws protecting unions and laws protecting whistle blowers. The amount of time you permit to pass before contacting a lawyer can vary depending on the behavior you are exhibiting. You technically can contact a lawyer as soon as the harassment begins, but if you file a complaint with human resources then you may want to find out from HR how long it usually takes for them to investigate--and give them at least that duration of time to take action and make changes. Your company handbook may also specify how quickly HR must respond to complaints. While you can wait for HR to respond, generally you do not want to delay if you are feeling in danger as a result of the behavior. Additionally, you want to make sure you contact a lawyer or the EEOC within 180 days of the discriminatory act in order to preserve your right to file the EEOC complaint.
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