What to Do if You Feel You are Being Harassed at Work

Workplace harassment should be addressed as soon as possible. Harassment that is not addressed tends to get worse. How you respond depends on the seriousness of the behavior, whether the harasser is your supervisor, and in general, how comfortable you are speaking directly to the person. If it is a co-worker, the conduct is not very serious, and you are comfortable speaking to them directly, you should do so. However if the behavior is serious, a supervisor is harassing you or you are simply not comfortable speaking directly to the person bothering you, you should find out who to complain to and do so immediately. If you don't feel the situation is being adequately addressed, contact a local agency with authority to take action or seek legal advice.
Here are some tips on taking action:
If you decide, as a first step, to speak to the person who is harassing you -
* Be direct and clear about the behavior that you want to stop.
* Don't let the person argue or debate the issue - if they do, continue to tell them that you do not like the behavior and you want it to stop.
* In many cases it is a good idea to follow-up with a written letter confirming what you told them and reiterating that you do not like the behavior and want it to stop. Be sure to date the letter and keep a copy.
If the behavior does not stop or you are not comfortable speaking to the person directly -
* Find out who is responsible for dealing with complaints of workplace harassment. If you trust this person, go to them. If you do not trust this person, find out if there is an alternate supervisor or manager you can complain to.
* Tell the complaint handler what behavior you are concerned about. Be specific. Make notes of your conversation. Ask them what they will do to remedy the situation and get a time line. Follow up with them to provide updated information, if there is any, and to determine what action is taken.
* If you believe you are being retaliated against, document what has occurred and let the person handling your complaint know. Talk to them about what can be done about retaliation and gossiping.
* If you do not feel the matter was handled properly, or the harassment does not stop, contact a state or federal agency (like the EEOC) about filing a complaint and/or seek legal advice.
It's important to remember that the person handling your complaint should be neutral and fair. He or she cannot be your advocate - that is not their appropriate role. Nor should you feel they are advocating for the person you complained about. Realize that they will need some time to investigate your complaint and come to a determination. Try to be patient but also let them know when/if you are concerned.