How to document harassment claims at work

Wisconsin employees may not realize that there is no law protecting them from general bullying or harassment in the workplace. Nearly 30 states have tried to pass the Healthy Workplace Bill, which protects employees from a hostile work environment, but only Tennessee has managed to put in on the books, and it only covers government workers. This means that workers sometimes make the mistake of reporting harassment to human resources without documenting the events in a way that legally protects them, leaving themselves open to retaliation.

According to experts in employment law, most workplace harassment will fall into discrimination based on a protected category, such as race, religion, age, sex, national origin or sexual orientation. Victimized workers should document any bullying or harassment that deals with these areas and report them to human resources in writing. For instance, a worker who is harassed for being a Muslim should detail any negative comments or treatment that specifically singled out their religion in a written complaint. To make sure an employer cannot deny that formal allegations were made, a worker should title such a complaint “A Formal Complaint of Religious Harassment.”

The same procedure should be followed by a worker who is discriminated against for having a disability or for exercising rights granted by the Family and Medical Leave Act. Complaints of this type should be called “A Formal Complaint of Disability Discrimination” or “A Formal Complaint of FMLA Retaliation” and specifically address examples of such harassment in writing. Similarly, whistleblowers who are retaliated against for calling attention to a company’s illegal activity should file a complaint called “Formal Complaint of Whistleblower Retaliation.”

Wisconsin residents who believe there should be a law specifically protecting workers from general bullying should contact their legislators. Workers facing on-the-job harassment could find out more about their employment rights by discussing their concerns with an employment law attorney.

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