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Dealing with a hostile work environment (HWE) isn't easy, but any type of workplace harassment or bullying should be dealt with professionally, yet assertively. HWEs are legally defined as those in which a worker is so victimized and stressed by hostile, harassing or bullying behaviors that he or she cannot work. If the employee being harassed or bullied ends up filing a lawsuit over a HWE matter, every action the employee took will be examined, not just the actions taken or not taken by the company. Hostile work environment cases are often difficult to prove because the victim of office bullying or workplace harassment has to have concrete proof as to exactly why he or she couldn't do the job as required.
It's important for a victim of any type of workplace bullying to respond immediately to any co-worker, boss or employee of the company who engages in degrading, humiliating or bullying behavior toward him or her. The victim should, in no uncertain terms, point out that the behavior is unacceptable and tell the offending person not to do it again. If there is more than one offender beginning to create a HWE, then the victim should speak with each person and tell each one exactly the same thing.
The victim should then report the incident and his or her actions taken to the company's human resources (HR) department as well as its upper management and ask for a copy of the report along with the firm's HWE policy. If the company has no HR department or hostile work environment policy or seems unresponsive, the employee should contact the United States Department of Labor, or similar government body in his or her country, to find out how to handle the possible start of a HWE situation. It's important to get written and signed acknowledgments from the government agency and other personnel with whom the victimized employee speaks along with the date and other details clearly noted.
Hopefully, the initial incident of sexual harassment, discrimination, humiliation or other incidence of workplace hostility won't be repeated, but if it is, the victim will have already started handling the situation and collecting as much evidence of the HWE as possible. A detailed log of everything that happens from the very first incident should be kept by the person experiencing a hostile work environment. It is important for a victim of workplace bullying or harassment to try to get as many witnesses and people in authority to sign statements as to what happened. The degree of the abuse is important if a lawsuit is filed, as the case may be dismissed if there is not enough proof or the judge finds that the hostility was minimal. In case of any physical harm or serious threat, the victim should always get the police involved in the hostile work environment matter immediately.