My Boss Harasses Me, What Do I Do?

Last Updated Apr 2, 2011 1:43 AM EDT

Your boss treats you differently than your coworker of a different race. Your coworker seem to always be watching porn when you walk by his cube. Your team leader makes fun of your accent. You want the harassment to stop, but what do you do?

Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home, an employment law blog, gave excellent advice about what to do in that situation. One important thing is that an employee must give the employer sufficient time to remedy the situation following receipt of an employee complaint of unlawful harassment.

A recent case that demonstrated how important this is, involved a receptionist that was sexually harassed by her boss. At one point he sent her 64 inappropriate text messages in less than 3 hours. She had all the evidence, but lost the case? Why? The Employer Handbook explains why.
Here, because the receptionist quit immediately after she complained of sexual harassment, the court found that there was insufficient time for her employer to have corrected the situation. So, even though the court believed that the doctor had created a hostile work environment that was both severe and pervasive, the court was persuaded that the clinic did have a procedure to remedy unlawful harassment in the workplace, but was deprived of the chance to do so. Therefore, the court dismissed the receptionist's claims.
Yikes. Here are some of the suggestions offered by Donna at Screw You
  • Put your complaint in writing if you haven't already. Make sure you call it a "Formal Complaint of Racial [or Sexual/Age-Based/National Origin, etc.] Harassment [or Discrimination]." That way they can't claim later you only reported general harassment or bullying.
  • If you have written proof â€" emails, memos, photos, recordings (not illegal tape recordings of conversations though), or other documents, gather them to bring to the meeting. Be organized. You'll be more believable and you'll look professional.
  • Take good notes of the questions asked and the answers you gave.
  • Don't concede that the reason the person you're complaining about did something is they dislike everyone. If you are asked why the discriminating person did something to you, the answer is almost always, "Because of my race/age/sex, etc." or "To retaliate against me for reporting discrimination." If you say it's because they're a bully, you're giving the legal department ammunition to say the person is an "equal opportunity harasser" who is mean to everyone.
Remember, general bullying is not illegal, therefore you need to be clear that your status is because of your protected class. If you run into this situation, read through the whole list given at Screw You. Your harasser will wish you didn't.

For further Reading
Photo by Sebastian Fritzon, Flickr cc 2.0

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