There are several types of behavior in the workplace that can be termed as harassment. Sexual harassment may be the most obvious, but harassment may be based on race, religion, age, disability, national origin and gender.
If a person feels intimidated or receives threats and physical assaults in the workplace, it is harassment. Verbal harassment may include offensive jokes, derogatory remarks or slurs related to personal characteristics.
There are federal laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace. No one is required to tolerate harassment in the workplace and if it happens, a complaint letter to a supervisor or human resources person will bring the issue before the proper authorities.
Before taking any steps, the victim should review the employee handbook for any policies or recommendations for handling workplace harassment.
When harassment takes place, the victim should immediately write down the details. The human resources person or supervisor will want these details, and they will be necessary to include in a complaint letter.
They should be written down while they are fresh in the victim’s mind because it is not uncommon for victims to postpone telling anyone about the harassment for some time due to embarrassment.
• Who did the harassing and what is their relationship to the victim? It may be a supervisor or a co-worker and need not be from someone of the opposite sex.
• When did the harassment act occur? This includes the date and time as well as the location. The exact mode of harassment should be mentioned as well as how the victim responded. For example, did the harasser touch the victim, send a note or verbally abuse him or her.
• If there was a witness to the harassment, their name and job title should be included.
• Keep any tangible evidence of harassment such as emails, notes or voicemails.
The complaint letter should be written in formal business style. It should be addressed to the person concerned not To Whom It May Concern. For example, it should be addressed to the name of the human resources person or the employer. If the victim doesn’t know the name, he or she should make a call to learn the name.
In the first paragraph of the letter, the victim should state that he or she wants to lodge a complaint about harassment and give the name of the harasser. The human resources person may not know the victim or harasser personally, so it is important to put the harasser’s job title and relation to the victim. For example, he may be a co-worker, supervisor or employer.
In the second paragraph, the victim can mention the type of harassment, how long it has been going on and if it is still continuing. If the victim approached an authority and reported it verbally, that should also be mentioned.
It is important to mention the exact type of harassment even if profane language or unpleasant physical contact was made. The human resources person needs to know the exact nature of the harassment to decide the best response.
The victim should stick to the facts, and not assume any legalities of the situation. He or she should just mention facts and not make assumptions about the harasser or draw conclusions about the situation. Any legal advice will be given by those qualified. It should also be mentioned if any previous complaint was made and if it changed or stopped the harassment.
The consequences of the harassment on the victim should also be mentioned. It may include severe embarrassment, mental anguish, unnecessary tension and stress at work or other personal distress.
Here is a sample complaint letter for harassment in the workplace.
Name of Victim
Address of Victim
Phone Number of Victim
Name of Recipient
Designation of Recipient
Name of Organization
Address of Organization
Dear Name of Recipient:
I am writing this letter to inform you about racial slurs and vulgar jokes that have been directed at me for the past month by a co-worker, Name of Harasser. I hold the position of POSITION in the company and have been employed for two years, with excellent work evaluations each year.
The harassment began on DATE when I was first transferred to this department and he said he didn’t like having a nigger in his department. It has continued almost every day since.
On DATE he said I look like dark chocolate, did I taste as good.
On DATE he sent me an email that said I should be working in the jungle.
On DATE he sent a voice mail that said niggers didn’t belong in this company.
I told my immediate supervisor about the situation after the second incident but Name of Harasser has not stopped. While most of the slurs have been verbal, I have the recordings of two voicemails and one email from Name of Harasser. I also have the collaboration of two witnesses, Name of Witness one and Name of Witness two, who have heard the verbal abuse.
I want to bring to your notice that I am undergoing severe mental anguish and embarrassment at work that continues at home as tension and stress about coming to work the next day. The harassment is affecting my relationship with my family and is affecting my performance at work because I know I could concentrate better if I was not afraid of when the next jibe would come.
I request that you kindly take up the matter and take any necessary action.
Signature of Victim
Name of Victim
The victim may be diffident to write the letter, so it never hurts to get the help of a senior advisor that he or she trusts. The victim should make several copies of the letter and sign each copy. He or she can send the letter to other parties if desired, once the formal letter has been received.
It is recommended to send a hard copy by registered mail, so the victim has proof that it was received. The victim should realize that when the human resources person investigates the incidents, the details would become public knowledge.