How to File a Hostile Workplace Complaint

  • May 18, 2021
  • Sexual Harassment Lawyer
  • Employment

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or discrimination of any type at work, knowing how to file a hostile workplace complaint is important. This knowledge is necessary if you want to have an investigation into your situation and be compensated for your distress.

What is a Hostile Workplace?

A hostile work environment is defined as an “unwelcome or offensive behavior in the workplace, which causes one or more employees to feel uncomfortable, scared, or intimidated in their place of employment.”

There are a number of laws in place, including the Civil Rights Act, which protect individuals from having to work in hostile environments.

When considering whether or not you should file a hostile workplace complaint, it is helpful to obtain the advice and counsel of a hostile workplace lawyer. This professional can guide you through the process and ensure that each step is completed appropriately.

4 Steps in Filing a Hostile Workplace Complaint in California

Filing a hostile workplace complaint is a multistep process. Making sure each is fully completed is necessary in order to be compensated for the stress under which you were forced to work. The process is shared below with more detail on each step following.

  1. Confirm Your Experience
  2. Notify Your Employer with a Hostile Workplace Complaint Letter
  3. Document What Happened
  4. File a Report

The information below describes each step and provides a roadmap you can follow in filing your complaint.

1. Confirm Your Experience

Before you begin the filing process, you must confirm that the situation in which you work does, in fact, meet the definition of a hostile workplace. Just because someone makes an off-color remark, this does not mean your place of work is hostile.

The EEOC states that “to be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”

If you are regularly subject to intimidation, offensive jokes and/or pictures, or other behaviors that affect your ability to work, your workplace may be deemed hostile. Many believe that the offending behaviors must be from a supervisor or an individual in a position of power. While this is possible, it is not necessary. In fact, inappropriate actions by co-workers, or even contractors and clients, can result in a hostile work environment.

2. Notify Your Employer with a Hostile Workplace Complaint Letter

If you have experienced harassment on the job and you believe your place of business is becoming a hostile environment, you MUST notify your employer. It is best to do this in writing, by composing a hostile workplace complaint letter. Review the hostile workplace guidelines set forth by the company for which you work and identify the specific “rules” which have been broken. Also, make sure to illustrate how the offensive behavior has affected you — include how you feel. If guidance is provided with regard to reporting inappropriate behavior, make sure you adhere to it.

3. Document What Happened

Harassment is annoying and frustrating, at best; at worst, it can be traumatizing. Keeping careful notes of your experiences, including dates, times, and the names of those involved, may prove to be critical if you eventually file suit. While you may think you will remember what happened, specifics are often hard to recall, especially over time. Keep a file and update it each time an incident occurs. Also track your communication with your company, as well as their responses.

4. File a Report

Hopefully, your employer will respond to your concerns and rectify the issues which negatively affect your access to and ability to work in a safe environment. However, time has shown that this is not always the case.

While many employers will comply with laws that require them to develop and share their harassment policies, often they are hesitant to confront those who are reportedly harassing others. Maybe that person is an extremely valued employee, or perhaps they are an “important client.” Sometimes the entire process seems just too uncomfortable to pursue. Unfortunately, disregarding a complainant’s concerns is unacceptable and may even be illegal.

If your employer has not addressed and rectified your situation, you should file a report with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Additionally, refer to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website to understand how claims should be filed. You need to actually file your complaint with only one of these agencies, as they share information with each other.

The Review

Once your complaint has been filed, the DFEH will review it. If it is accepted, an investigation will be launched. The entirety of the incident will be reviewed, including exactly what happened and the situation surrounding it. Your employer will be contacted and will be required, by law, to respond. Additionally, witnesses, including co-workers, may be interviewed.

You may be hesitant about filing a claim; perhaps you are worried about how your employer will react.

Rest assured, you cannot be fired for filing a claim regarding a hostile workplace.

According to the EEOC, “Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.”

Based on the investigation and your employer’s response, the next step will be either mediation or legal action. If legal action is pursued and you prove your case, you may be eligible for damages, either compensatory or punitive.

How to File a Hostile Workplace Complaint – Knowledge is Power

If you believe you are being harassed at your place of business, and are now working in a hostile environment, consider taking action based on the steps above. Become familiar with your employer’s harassment policies and procedures and make sure to follow their recommendations.

Both federal and California laws provide you the right work in a harassment-free environment. As an employee, you have the right to feel safe, and you should take all steps to make sure any harassment is curtailed and hostile workplace situations rectified.

Consult an Attorney with Experience in Hostile Workplace Complaints

The environment in which you work may be uncomfortable, and simply carrying out your day-to-day responsibilities stressful. These emotions, along with the process of filing a hostile workplace complaint, can seem overwhelming. A consultation with a sexual harassment attorney can help answer your questions and provide valuable counsel on how you should proceed.

Gilleon Law Firm has been fighting to protect the rights of its clients for decades. The firm is well-versed in both California and federal law regarding hostile workplaces and harassment. In fact, they have recovered over $100 million for their clients. Contact them today at 800-408-2857 for a free and confidential consultation.