First and foremost, employees should familiarize themselves with their employee handbook and follow the steps in it, particularly complaint procedures. Too often, employees in employment law cases are challenged about the fact that they did not avail themselves of the company’s internal complaint procedures. In other words, one would expect that if an employee has been subjected to discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, he or she would register a complaint about it where the company offers complaint procedures. Indeed, in sexual harassment cases in particular, the failure to utilize the company’s anti-harassment complaint procedure can be fatal to an employee’s case.
Second, any and all internal complaints made to management should be made as close in time to the offending incident as possible and should be in writing. The longer it takes an employee to report acts of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, the more it appears that the employee was not really offended by the alleged conduct. Complaints should be in writing in order to ensure that there are no miscommunications or misunderstandings as to what the employee is alleging, that the employer cannot deny having received a complaint, and that the employee has a record of the complaint (the employee should keep a copy of the complaint).
Third, document all acts of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation as they occur in a notebook or diary. Specifically, employees should include, dates, times, names of witnesses, and what happened. This will not only help the employee in writing and submitting a comprehensive and detailed internal complaint, it will also help the employee recollect the events years later during an employment law lawsuit should it become necessary.
In addition to the above, employees who feel they are or have been discriminated against, harassed, and/or retaliated against should seek legal advice.