Everyone has a right to work in a safe environment, and it’s up to your employer to provide that. But if someone’s actions create a workplace that’s intimidating, hostile or offensive, the behavior could be unlawful. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, offensive conduct includes “offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.” If this sounds like something that’s happening to you, you could be the victim of harassment and you have a right to speak up.
Contact a human resource representative to get a better understanding of how to report claims of harassment. Someone in human resources will likely conduct an investigation on the matter and then follow up with the appropriate disciplinary action. In this situation, you may not need to ever write a letter to document the situation.
Document all incidences of harassment. Record the dates and times of each occurrence, as well as the parties involved. Include not just the name of the offender but also any witnesses to the event. If you’re unable to recall dates and times, note the week or month instead.
Relate only the facts, and avoid drawing conclusions or giving your opinions on the situation. Opinions can sometimes cloud the facts, so detail exactly what was said or done to you — no matter how offensive. If someone addressed you with vulgarities, put them in your letter.
Recount any steps taken to resolve the situation. If, for example, you spoke to the person in question directly, detail the outcome of the conversation. Did harassing behaviors escalate? Did they remain the same? If you reported the incident to a manager, do the same. Did she ignore your complaint? Did she talk to the offender yet the harassment continued? Gather as much information as possible.
Consider speaking to one or more of the witnesses to the harassing behavior. Ask if they’d be willing to write or give a statement to support your claim of harassment.
Address the letter to only those individuals who should receive the complaint. If human resources is already handling the matter, you may only need to provide a copy of the complaint to the representative you’re working with. If, however, you reported the harassing behavior to a direct manager, you may then need to provide a copy to her as well as the HR representative.
- Consider speaking to a lawyer, especially when an employer fails to investigate and remedy your complaint. Legal action then may be necessary.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.