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.
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.