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According to federal laws, members of certain protected groups, such as women, racial minorities, and the disabled, are legally protected from discriminatory harassment in the workplace. If an employer encourages and tolerates harassment sufficiently severe as to create a hostile workplace, the employee may be entitled to damages. While the creation of a hostile workplace is not a criminal infraction, the employer can be found in violation of civil law. In order to bring a lawsuit against your employer, you must follow a number of steps.
Identify the harassing behavior. Not all harassment is obvious. Some can take the form of insinuation or be disguised as humor. Although your first response may be to brush it off, the only means of stopping harassment is to be conscious of when it's going on.
Document the harassment. In order to file suit against an employer, you must provide evidence of the harassment. In order to do so, you should document as many instances of harassment as possible. This can be done by saving harassing emails and voice messages, and, if your state permits it, making tape recordings of harassing statements.
Consult an attorney. Try to find an attorney who is free to take your case and experienced in employment law. The attorney will examine the evidence you have collected and devise a strategy as to how to proceed. He may wish to speak with co-workers or other parties to the harassment, as well.
Send a letter to your employer. The attorney will likely help you draft a letter to your employer informing him of the harassment and asking that it cease. However the employer responds, this letter will be important, as it will show in court that you did not welcome the harassment.
Call the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The U.S. EEOC handles all complaints made against employers for workplace discrimination and harassment. You must first report the incidents to the EEOC before filing suit. The EEOC will investigate and issue you a right-to-sue notice. You then have 90 days to file suit.
File suit. The attorney will write and file a lawsuit against your employer in civil court. The lawsuit will outline both the charges made against the employer and the damages being sought. Depending on how your employer responds, this will either result in a settlement between you and your employer or the case being heard by a judge.
Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.