How to Document Harassment in the Workplace
Workplace harassment is a growing problem. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received more than 27,000 official complaints in 2007 and more than 32,000 in 2008—about 80 to 84 percent of those complaints reached a resolution 1. Careful documentation of each harassment incident will be beneficial when filing a formal complaint. However, seek help immediately if you fear physical harm or feel your safety or safety of your loved ones is threatened.
Record each incident in which you felt harassed as soon after the event as possible, while the details are still fresh in your mind. Write down the date, time and place in which the incident occurred. Describe exactly what happened and the name and position of the person doing the harassing. If there were any witnesses, record their names. Describe how the incident affected you and your work. Do not save this information on a work computer. Save it on a disk or flash drive and keep it at home. You can also document the harassment incidents in a notebook or journal, which you should keep at home.
Save any harassing emails, documents or other physical evidence of the harassment. For example, if a sexual harassment incident involves unwanted gifts, keep these items along with detailed information about when and where the harasser gave them to you. Document all possible evidence of your performance, such as memos and performance evaluations. In some cases, the accused party may try to claim that your charge is due to your work performance.
Document any actions you took to try to stop the behavior, such as confronting the harasser. This shows that you took the harassment seriously enough to take action. Record information about the harasser’s reaction to your conversation, including whether any retaliatory action occurred because of your confrontation.
File a complaint with the appropriate grievance channel, such as the human resources department or sexual harassment hotline, if your company offers one. Document the time and date when you filed the complaint as well as all pertaining details, including with whom you spoke. You will need this information later if this step does not resolve the harassment.
If your workplace resources fail to resolve the situation, the next step in most workplaces is to file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You do not need an attorney to file the charge. However, at this point you should consider seeking legal advice.