Document, Document, Document
If you or a colleague are a victim* of workplace discrimination or harassment, the single most important thing you can do is document everything that happens between you and the perpetrator.
* Some people prefer survivor or another term rather than victim.
1. try talking first
The first time a colleague makes an inappropriate comment, hope that it’s a one-time mistake and document it. Then, if you feel supported in your organization, e.g. if leadership has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination, consider asking the the person to stop, or asking your supervisor to intervene. If this isn’t possible and/or if you fear retaliation and respond "politely," it’s still important to document. If the perpetrator persists, document the recurrences and contact Human Resources, then a lawyer. Lawyers understand that employees feel forced to "play along."
Keep the details secure
Document the behavior of the perpetrator. Note the time, date, duration, number called from, and exactly what was said. If you use a work computer or work phone to document this information, your supervisors can at any time reclaim those items, including the information you saved, so keep it on your personal computer or phone.
Read more about how to document harassment in the workplace from LIVESTRONG.
Forward it to your personal email account. If you fear the perpetrator could intercept your email, take screenshots of the content of the perpetrator's email and if company policy allows, copy the email or its contents to another device such as a flash drive. Learn how to take a screenshot in Windows or on a Mac, or simply take a picture of your computer screen with a camera.
Inappropriate phone call
Immediately type up the conversation and email it to yourself. Again, if you fear the perpetrator could intercept an email, take picture of your computer screen, take a screenshot and if company policy allows, copy it to another device, or simply write the conversation down on paper.
Inappropriate In-person Conversation
If you’re at an office event, such as a department potluck or conference, and you experience inappropriate comments, jokes, touching, or even assault, get to a safe space as soon as you can (such as a bathroom stall), and document the details.
If you experience any sort of physical assault, call 9-1-1 and/or immediately contact an attorney who specializes in the workplace (see Get Help). Physical assault is never, under any circumstances, acceptable. If the perpetrator tries to talk you out of calling for help because it will “hurt the cause,” know that you must report such offenses to protect yourself and the cause.
If other colleagues share that they are experiencing inappropriate behavior, direct them to this website and encourage them to document what happened. It’s best if you also document everything that you have seen or been told about the encounter. Encourage your colleagues to report harassment, discrimination, and retaliation to Human Resources.
recording (Be careful)
Please note that in some states it's illegal to record a person (such as with a tape recorder or video camera) without their permission.
Read details on how to prove discrimination from the Workplace Fairness group.
3. Report to Human Resources
Before contacting a lawyer, report the incident to your Human Resources department in writing, if your workplace has one. It's critical for employees to report instances of discrimination so that the employer can take action and the employee has a record of the instances. If you fear retaliation, you may contact a lawyer first. Keep in mind that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will be better able to help if you use established channels of reporting.
4. Research state law
Determine whether there are state-specific laws and resources regarding discrimination in the state where you reside or where your organization is headquartered.
5. Seek Legal Advice
If your situation has not been remedied, speak to a lawyer and/or file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Note that there is a time limit of 180 or 300 days, for each incident, for filing with the EEOC. Learn more on the Get Help page.
6. Speak Out
Share your testimonial anonymously.