You have the right not to feel harassed or discriminated against while in the workplace. However, not everyone plays by the rules. A co-worker, supervisor, or business owner might harass or discriminate against you. So, how do you handle it? Do you complain verbally or in writing? One of the things we always tell people is, “Document, document, document.” Documentation of a problem is often the only way to prove something.
Verbal communication of an issue at the workplace has several problems. First, when communicating your issue verbally, you are likely to forget topics and facts. While speaking with your boss or company owner, not everything you need to say might come to mind.
Second, you might not feel comfortable telling the person all the facts. That weakens your case and makes you unbelievable. In trying to avoid a major confrontation, you sabotage your case. Finally, if you don’t write your complaint, it never happened. It is your word against your employer’s word.
Since employment complaints are severe and could cause the employer thousands in fines or even hundreds of thousands in court cases, they will often deny that you filed a complaint unless it is in writing.
The most significant benefit of putting your complaint in writing is that you have proof that you made the complaint. If you properly date the complaint, you will also have the date, which will come in handy should you go to court.
Additionally, your employee handbook might require you to make discrimination or harassment complaints in writing. If you make the complaint verbally, it might be ignored at worst, and at best, your employer will throw it out since verbal communication is against company policy.
If your complaint is in writing, your employer cannot deny that you mentioned the issue. It cannot find any other reason to show that you didn’t make the complaint. For example, your employer can’t come back and say that you never made the complaint, that HR never showed it to them, that it burned up, or that the supervisor’s dog ate it.
Finally, the employer cannot lie about your complaint – it might agree that you complained about something – usually anything other than discrimination or harassment. The employer could stand up in court and say that you complained about traffic, traveling, or something equally mundane.
When you communicate with your employer in writing, it is much harder to deny that you made a harassment or discrimination complaint. No matter what the employer claims, you have a copy of the complaint. And that complaint is the first step in building a discrimination or harassment case against your employer.
If you suffered from discrimination or harassment at your workplace, contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible for a case evaluation.