Friday, May 07, 2010

You Have to Get All "Law and Order" on Your Harasser!

If you are being harassed or discriminated against at work, you should do your best to find out if your harasser or tormentor has had similar encounters with other employees or if there have been other informal or formal complaints lodged against this person. If so, you should create a log that you can use to track this similar past behavior.

In order to track what the person has done, you've got to act like you're one of the charcters on a show like Law and Order. You already know the current accusations because you are the one making them against your harasser. Now, you need to figure out if similar workplace "crimes" were committed in the past, what your harasser did, how they got away with it (never reported, employer cover-up, etc.), and how many victims (past and present coworkers) were involved.

It would be great to find out information on your harasser. However, it would also be great to find out that there may be other employees who have gotten away with infringing on the rights of subordinates or coworkers. This would show a pattern of behavior on the part of your employer and that they don't take discriminatory and/or harassing behavior seriously. Meaning, there is an environment and history that shows they condone and/or tolerate abusive behavior.

If a pattern of negative behavior exists, you should use this information to demonstrate that this pattern of prior bad acts have not been adequately addressed by your employer. Your employer is legally responsible to have preventative measures in place that discourage illegal misconduct at work. Similarly, your employer is legally responsible to utilize corrective measures to put a stop to anyone engaging in illegal misconduct at work.

For instance, if a manager has been on the receiving end of several complaints from minority employees, your company should conduct a thorough investigation into this manager. While the investigation is being conducted, the manager should be subjected to heightened scrutiny to make sure he/she doesn’t attempt to retaliate against his/her subordinates. And, the manager could be removed—at least temporarily—from management responsibility/maintaining a position of authority over the complaining subordinates.

If the manager is found guilty of engaging in illegal misconduct, additional corrective actions could include firing or demoting the manager, written warnings and probation, participation in diversity and/or sensitivity training classes, salary cuts, etc.

But, the first step in fighting back is finding out what your “enemy” has been up to. If your employer has received numerous complaints from a variety of minority employees about racially-based harassment by a particular supervisor, you should definitely make note of this pattern in a log or on some other type of tracking sheet.

Have conversations with anyone who has had similar experiences with the individual, even if they never filed a complaint. Find out as much specific information as you can and highlight all of the similarities with your case. Be sure to note what action, if any, was taken by your employer based on a problem pattern of behavior.

This will also have an impact on your employer’s liability in your case--especially if the past bad acts go back for a significant period of time. This would show that your employer knew it had a long-term problem with this employee, but did nothing. The inaction of your employer would demonstrate a tolerance for illegal misconduct and a lack of seriousness regarding maintaining a workplace free of discrimination, harassment, etc.


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