Employees who are being harassed naturally want the harassing behaviour to stop as soon as possible. The first step to take is to make the harasser aware that his behaviour is unwelcome and inappropriate, and order him to stop the harassing actions immediately. The optimal outcome is that the harassment stops; but by documenting the directive in a letter, an employee can establish a basis for further disciplinary or legal action if the behaviour continues.
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Type the letter in a standard, readable business font such as Times New Roman, Courier or Ariel. Format the letter in a formal business style with salutations addressed to "Mr." or "Ms." Avoid being informal or overly friendly, and don't address the harasser by his first name. Include the date on the letter for evidentiary purposes.
Describe the unwelcome behaviour that has occurred, being as specific as possible. Include the date and time the behaviour occurred, whether anyone witnessed the event, and the exact details of the harassment. For example: "On Monday, June 30, at approximately 5:00 p.m., you came to my office and stood in the doorway. Adriana Lopez was at her desk and saw you standing there. I was trying to leave for the day but you blocked my path and placed both hands around my waist. You stated, 'give me a kiss,' when I tried to push your hands away."
Inform the harasser that you find the behaviour unacceptable and unwelcome. Describe how the behaviour made you feel and why you did not like it, for example: "I was embarrassed and uncomfortable, and wanted your behaviour to stop. I did not want you to place your hands on me or ask for a kiss. I found your actions inappropriate and unprofessional."
Direct the harasser to stop the behaviour immediately. Warn him that you will not tolerate future incidences and emphasise the consequences if the behaviour is repeated. Your statement should be professional but direct, such as: "In future, please do not touch me, hug me or ask for kisses. I am not interested in any relationship with you other than strictly professional co-worker interaction when necessary. If your harassment of me continues, I will report the behaviour immediately to management and the appropriate authorities."
Sign the letter in ink and deliver it to the harasser. Ask a colleague to accompany you as a witness when you present the harasser the letter. Inform your colleague in advance that you may require him to testify as a witness, and make sure he is prepared to do so if needed.
Save a copy of the letter. You might need to provide it to your supervisor, your manager or the company human resources department at a later date if the harassment continues.
Tips and warnings
- Tell the harasser verbally to stop the behaviour at the time the behaviour occurs. Although this might not work, you can then refer to your verbal directions in the letter and establish a pattern of telling the harasser his behaviour was unwelcome.
- Don't "soften" the letter in an attempt to be sensitive to the harasser's feelings.
- Expect the harasser to deny the behaviour and erase any evidence such as e-mails. Be prepared and save any other documented evidence before you present him the letter.
- If you are concerned for your safety, don't give the letter to the harasser. Instead, report the issue to your manager or human resources department -- or consult with an attorney for advice.
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- Utah Department of Human Resource Management: Employee Guide to Workplace Harassment Prevention
- The State Bar of California: What Are My Rights as an Employee?