February 9, 2021
If you face harassment or discrimination at work, there are steps you can take to protect your rights. Following them will help you prove your case or preserve your right to sue if you later decide to file a claim for harassment or discrimination.
# 1 Talk to the offender
From a practical perspective, this is the best way to stop the behavior. Legally speaking, notifying the offender will help you prove some important facts if you later file a lawsuit.
# 2 File a complaint within your company
If your conversation doesn’t resolve the issue, or if you decided to skip the talk entirely (because you feared for your safety, for example), the next step is to file an internal complaint. Consult your employee handbook or ask your human resources department how to file a harassment or discrimination complaint. Then follow those instructions strictly.
# 3 File an EEOC charge
Before you can file a lawsuit under federal law, you must file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a similar state agency. This is a legal requirement because if you file a claim without first filing a charge (that is, after “exhausting” your administrative remedies), your claim will be dismissed.
Once that is done, the EEOC or agency will notify your employer. The agency may dismiss your charge, investigate it, request that you and your employer try to resolve or mediate the dispute or take other action. Unless the agency decides to file a lawsuit on your behalf (a sporadic occurrence), it will finish processing your claim and issue a letter of right to sue. Once you receive the letter, you can file a lawsuit.
# 4 File a lawsuit
You can file a lawsuit once you receive the letter. Where and when to file a lawsuit and what to include in it are all critical decisions. There is no doubt you will need an attorney. An attorney can assess your claims’ strength and make sure you don’t miss the time limit. They can also assist you with drafting your administrative charge and help you negotiate with your employer, among other essential processes.