Workplace harassment is, for many, a professional worst nightmare. On top of building your skills and trying to climb the corporate ladder (or just do a good job in a day) you have to deal with someone who uses rude, abusive, and viciously biased against you. Workplace harassment can come in many forms, from hurled insults to unwanted compliments, from discriminatory assignments to being downright ignored.
The harassment is meant to make you feel powerless, to stop you from protecting yourself or reporting the abuse. This is exactly why your best move is usually to protect yourself from the harassment and move forward anyway. Today, we’re here to talk about the three steps every Minnesota employee should take if faced with workplace harassment that doesn’t stop after being asked.
1) Create a Record of the Harassment
The first step is to make irrefutable proof that the harassment is going on. A bully’s primary tactic is to deny their abuse and accuse you of being ‘sensitive’ or even ‘out to get them’ when you bring the abuse to light. So creating a record will help you to prove what is happening to you when it’s time to make a report and, possibly, when it’s time to fight against retaliation.
If there is any paper trail of the abuse, mean emails or texts for example, then collect these. A document of unbalanced assignments or fault-less demotions can also serve as a paper trail.
Keep a Journal of Harassing Encounters
If the harassment doesn’t have a paper trail (and it often doesn’t), your best first step is to keep a journal. Be honest and precise about when harassment occurs and exactly what happened. Gather corroborating evidence proving the whens and wheres. Consider building a full diary of your day to add clear authenticity to the journal.
Record Your Workstation to Prove Off-Grid Harassment
In Minnesota, is is legal to record both video and audio of an encounter if you are one of the participants. And you don’t have to wear a body camera to prove your point. Simply leaving your laptop webcam on and background-recording can catch those otherwise elusive moments of abuse that only happen at your desk when no one else is looking.
Gather Supporting Statements from Witnesses
If possible, collect signed statements from coworkers, clients, and any other witnesses who saw an instance of harassment in action. Keep in touch with your witnesses and ensure they are willing to submit their statements and speak up for you if it comes to that.
2) Make a Report to HR
In best-case scenarios, harassment is an isolated incident involving one or a few rogue employees. When this happens, your HR department should be on your side in stopping the abuse and rooting out the problem. This, of course, isn’t always the case. Sometimes HR is covering for a known bad manager. Sometimes retaliation can even come from HR, but you are obliged to make a report none the less.
Why? Because if you make a report and nothing is done, you have stronger grounds to take legal action.
Determine the Most Likely Response
Start by determining whether HR is likely to help you, do nothing, or rat you out. Every company structure is different, and so too is each person in the HR department. You may have more luck filing with a specific member of HR staff or you may know for certain that HR reports lead to trouble. If you’re worried, contact a lawyer before filing with HR.
File a Report – Keep a Personal Copy
Read the employee handbook and file the harassment report exactly as your company policies outline. Work with HR, if they are cooperative, to file a complete report. However, just in case, keep a copy of every item you file. Corrupted HR departments have been known to ‘lose’ inconvenient reports.
Talk to HR about Possible Solutions
Then talk to your HR staff about your possible solutions. Moving you or the abuser, firing the abuser (if called for), or making the abuser face their biases are all potential options that may or may not work for your situation. No matter what is decided, it’s helpful to know what direction your HR dpt. plans to go with your complaint.
3) Contact a Minnesota Workplace Harassment Lawyer
Finally, you’ll want to get in touch with a Minnesota lawyer who has experience in workplace harassment cases. Few cases are more likely to result in retaliation and other consequences you may need legal protection from. An attorney can help you know your rights and enforce them with the power of the law behind your actions. And, if necessary, a workplace harassment lawyer can help you sue your employer for taking insufficient action or acting against you after your HR report was filed. For more information about how to deal with workplace harassment safely or to consult with a workplace lawyer, contact us today!