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How Do I Prove Verbal Harassment in the Workplace?

At any workplace, it's essential that all employees feel that any harassment issues will be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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Verbal harassment in the workplace is a serious issue that can cause emotional harm and degrade the working environment. Since verbal harassment is an immediate problem that does not usually leave a verifiable record or evidence such as scars or bruises, it can sometimes be difficult to prove. There are certain steps a person can take to prove such harassment in the workplace, but without definite proof, getting supervisors, lawyers, and even judges to agree with the charge may be complicated.

One of the best ways to prove verbal harassment is to obtain the testimony of an objective third party. If another worker who is not involved in the situation overhears an incident of harassment, he or she may be willing to corroborate a victim's story. Since verbal abusers rarely take pains to hide their hurtful and upsetting speeches, witnesses may be common. Unfortunately, since verbal harassment in the workplace often occurs with the participation or encouragement of a group of workers, it may be difficult to find a willing, reliable, and trustworthy witness. Some witnesses may be afraid of personal retribution, since verbal abusers are often bullies.

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In addition to an internal witness, it may sometimes help to have a person who can testify as to the emotional damage wrought by verbal abuse. If a person is suffering emotional distress from repeated instances of abuse, it may be a good idea to confide these feelings in a counselor or therapist. Not only can a counselor help work through the distress, he or she may be able to serve as a professional witness and corroborate that the victim is suffering from emotional damage.

Another step a person can take to help prove a history of verbal harassment in the workplace is to keep a confidential diary where the dates, times, and exact circumstances of abuse are recorded. If possible, the victim should write down exactly what was said by his or her attacker, in order to create a comprehensive record. Any notes, emails, or phone messages that contain abusive attacks should also be saved, as these can be very helpful in creating a case against harassment.

Some people may consider using a tape or digital recorder to catch the abuser in action. This is a somewhat risky maneuver, as recording people without their knowledge may actually be illegal in some places. In an internal situation, where a worker is trying to convince supervisors or managers of verbal harassment, a recording may come in handy. It is important to check laws regarding this practice, as well as whether it may violate a company code of conduct.

A lawyer or legal advisor may be a good resource for finding ways to prove verbal harassment in the workplace. Since laws on admissible evidence vary regionally, speaking to a local attorney may be the best way to determine which forms of evidence will be most helpful. Many lawyers offer free or low-cost initial consultations, which can help pave the way to the next step in stopping verbal harassment.

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anon963580
Post 5

I work a kitchen at a camp. The camp is great, and the rest of my coworkers are outstanding. The main chef though, yeah, she's the problem. She is always hostile and embarrasses us in front of everyone for a simple mistake. She screams and curses at us all the time (not to mention our ages are between 16-21). Half are minors.

She gossips about us and her negativity spreads within the workplace. She never has anything positive to say about people here. Half the time I am fearing for myself and I don't want to ask any questions which prevents me from further advancing into my job and doing better.

She uses demoralizing language and calls us useless, especially because we are young with minimal experience. She makes mistakes too, but never admits it. I wonder, does this define verbal harassment? We don't feel welcomed in our work environment.

anon950314
Post 4

What happens if it is your boss and corporate officers that are cursing at you and belittling you? What can you do?

anon351209
Post 3

There's a unique app, called HEARD, that can help. It lets you record nearby audio up five minutes after you've heard it.

sekedarCanda
Post 2

I wish I were an office worker as well, but I'm not.

Eyegal has very strong arguments with her medical condition and company policy.

Her approach seems really good as well. She talked to the lady nicely many times, then talked to her boss, then to the one above her.

The yelling and screaming then the threats happened shortly before she posted, so I'm not sure how serious she was, and she was in a frustrating situation.

She should ask nicely after the woman has calmed down. Also, maybe, if the boss doesn't know what to do, how about for some days, every time the coworker lights a candle or sprays perfume, she notifies her boss and she can check it. She can pretend she is doing something else or acknowledge that she knows the woman sprayed perfume or lit a scented candle.

After a few days, she can ask the lady to come to her office and ask her to sign a letter saying that she has done all that, the more details the better, and that she already knows the company policy in that regard. Eyegal can add her case into that one as well, and say that she and her boss have already asked the lady many times to stop, but I'm not sure how personally she would take it if you do that.

Maybe she will refuse to sign it, but depending on her boss, she can let it go but make her promise not to do that again. But she might want to record the conversation just in case.

eyegal
Post 1

I have a problem with a coworker and now my boss. I have a medical condition and strong smells of certain things affect my allergies and sinuses. I have been to a specialist and I have this in writing. I turned it in to my boss about six weeks ago.

There is a lady who has an office behind where I sit (up front -- my work area) who can't be moved. I have asked her for months nicely to please stop spraying perfume, body spray, air freshener, using plug ins and burning candles. She continues to do this. I have reported this to my boss, and she has asked her not to do this, however she still continues to do it.

Yesterday I went to the main doctor (next in the chain of command) and he basically told my boss to fix it. So then my boss was mad because I went to the doctor about the situation.

She then talked to the lady, and the conversation ended up yelling and screaming then I was brought in the office, and the two of them continued to yell and scream, still with nothing accomplished. My boss made said the next time this happens, she was sending both of us home. I said nothing -- never opened my mouth.

I had already clocked out, so when they were walking through the office door where we were, I got up and went out the back door. I still did not say one word. So I feel I am being harassed and treated wrongly because of my medical condition.

Let me also say I work in a surgery center, where the company policy is no perfume, scented lotion and so on. Also isn't it a fire hazard to have candles burning in the building? We could have patients who come through with allergies and it could affect them as well!

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