It's sadly familiar for employees to experience mistreatment or abuse at work. Nobody should endure mistreatment or fear for safety while trying to do their job.

Workplace violence and harassment can take many forms, including physical threats, verbal abuse, bullying, and discrimination based on things like gender, race, or religion. Reporting incidents is the first step towards creating positive change, and we're here to help you navigate that process.

Did you know that a staggering number of workplace violence and harassment incidents go unreported each year?

According to Gitnux studies,

  1. 44% of employees have experienced harassment at work.

  2. Only 1% of sexually harassed victims confront their perpetrators.

  3. 99% of employees successfully recognize a sexual harassment situation.

By empowering employees with the knowledge and tools to report incidents and identify the warning signs, we can create safer and more respectful workplaces for everyone.

But do you know how to report workplace violence & harassment?

In this blog, we'll discuss the steps you can take to report incidents, including who to report to, what information to provide, and what to expect after making a report. 

Reporting Procedures

reporting-procedures

It is essential to understand the step-by-step process for reporting workplace violence and harassment incidents. 

It guides employees' actions to ensure their safety and document incidents effectively.

1. Immediate Actions

Immediate actions address the crucial steps individuals should take immediately after experiencing or witnessing workplace violence or harassment. These actions are vital for ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone involved. Here are some key points:

  1. Seek Safety: The priority is to remove oneself from the situation if it's safe. This may involve leaving the immediate area or seeking assistance from others.

  2. Call for Help: If the situation poses an immediate threat, it's essential to call for help. This could mean contacting emergency services, security personnel, or a supervisor who can intervene.

  3. Preserve Evidence: If it's safe, individuals should try to preserve any evidence related to the incident, such as written communication, photographs, or physical evidence. This documentation can be crucial for future reporting or legal action.

  4. Seek Support: Experiencing workplace violence or harassment can be distressing, so it's essential to seek support from colleagues, friends, or professional counselors who can provide emotional support and guidance.

Ensuring Personal Safety

Ensuring personal safety emphasizes prioritizing personal safety when dealing with workplace violence or harassment. Here's what it entails:

  1. Remove Yourself from Danger: Don't hesitate to remove yourself from the situation if you feel threatened or unsafe. This might involve leaving the area or seeking refuge in a secure location.

  2. Seek Assistance: Don't try to handle the situation alone. Seek assistance from security personnel, supervisors, or law enforcement if necessary.

  3. Follow Safety Protocols: Familiarize yourself with the company's safety protocols and procedures for dealing with workplace violence or harassment, and follow them diligently to ensure your safety and the safety of others.

Documenting Incidents

Documenting incidents involves recording details of workplace violence or harassment incidents accurately and thoroughly. Here's what it entails:

  1. Record Details: Document the date, time, location, and nature of the incident, as well as any witnesses present. Be as specific and detailed as possible in your documentation.
  2. Gather Evidence: Collect any evidence related to the incident, such as emails, text messages, photographs, or physical evidence. This evidence supports your account of the incident and aids in subsequent investigations.
  3. Report the Incident: Once you have documented the incident, report it to the appropriate authorities or channels within your organization according to company policy. This ensures that the incident is officially recorded and addressed promptly.

2. Internal Reporting Channels

Internal reporting channels refer to the avenues available within the organization for employees to report incidents of workplace violence or harassment. 

These channels are vital for ensuring that reports are addressed promptly and appropriately. Here's an overview:

Human Resources Department

The Human Resources (HR) department is a primary internal reporting channel for workplace violence and harassment incidents. 

HR professionals are trained to handle sensitive matters and ensure confidentiality while addressing employee concerns. Here's how HR can assist:

  1. Confidential Reporting: HR provides a confidential platform for employees to report incidents without fear of retaliation. They ensure privacy and discretion throughout the reporting process.

  2. Investigation and Resolution: HR conducts thorough investigations into reported incidents, gathering relevant information and evidence to address the issue effectively. They work with management to implement appropriate disciplinary actions or corrective measures.

  3. Support and Counseling: HR offers support and counseling services to employees who have experienced workplace violence or harassment. They guide available resources and assist in navigating the reporting process.

Management Chain of Command

The management chain of command refers to the hierarchical structure within the organization, where employees can escalate reports of workplace violence or harassment to their supervisors or higher-level management. Here's how this reporting channel works:

  1. Direct Reporting: Employees can report incidents directly to their immediate supervisors or managers. These supervisors are responsible for taking appropriate action to address the reported concerns.

  2. Escalation Process: If the issue is not resolved at the initial level, employees can escalate their reports to higher levels of management, such as department heads, executives, or the CEO. This ensures that unresolved issues receive appropriate attention and action from upper management.

  3. Accountability: Management is accountable for creating a safe and respectful work environment. By providing a transparent chain of command for reporting incidents, management demonstrates its commitment to effectively addressing workplace violence and harassment.

Internal reporting channels, including the HR department and the management chain of Command, play a crucial role in addressing workplace violence and harassment incidents promptly, impartially, and effectively within the organization.

3. External Reporting Options

External reporting options refer to avenues outside of the organization where employees can report incidents of workplace violence or harassment to external authorities or agencies. 

These options provide additional support and avenues for recourse if internal reporting channels are insufficient. Here's an overview:

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement agencies, such as local police departments or sheriff's offices, serve as external reporting options for workplace violence or harassment that involve criminal behavior or pose immediate threats to safety. Here's how law enforcement can assist:

  1. Emergency Response: Employees can contact law enforcement for emergency assistance in situations where an immediate threat to safety or criminal activity has occurred. Police officers can respond promptly to assess the situation and take appropriate action to ensure the individuals' safety.

  2. Criminal Investigations: Law enforcement agencies conduct thorough investigations into reported incidents of workplace violence or harassment that involve criminal behavior. They gather evidence, interview witnesses, and pursue legal action against perpetrators as necessary.

  3. Legal Protection: Law enforcement agencies can provide legal protection to victims of workplace violence or harassment by issuing restraining orders or pursuing criminal charges against perpetrators. This ensures that victims receive the necessary support and protection under the law.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency responsible for ensuring safe and healthy working conditions for employees across various industries. 

OSHA is an external reporting option for workplace violence or harassment incidents that violate workplace safety regulations. Here's how OSHA can assist:

  1. Reporting Violations: Employees can file complaints with OSHA if they believe that workplace violence or harassment poses a risk to their safety or violates OSHA regulations. OSHA investigates complaints and takes enforcement action against employers who fail to provide a safe work environment.

  2. Workplace Inspections: OSHA inspects workplaces to assess compliance with safety regulations, including workplace violence prevention. Inspections may be triggered by employee complaints or as part of routine monitoring efforts.

  3. Training and Guidance: OSHA provides resources, Training, and guidance to employers and employees on preventing workplace violence and harassment. This includes best practices for identifying and addressing potential hazards, implementing effective prevention strategies, and promoting a culture of safety and respect in the workplace.

External reporting options such as law enforcement and OSHA provide essential platforms for employees to seek assistance and recourse in workplace violence or harassment that cannot be resolved internally. 

These options help ensure that individuals receive the necessary support and protection to address safety concerns and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

4. Anonymous Reporting

Anonymous reporting refers to a method for employees to report incidents of workplace violence or harassment without disclosing their identity. 

This option is crucial for individuals who may fear retaliation or adverse consequences for coming forward. Here's an overview of how it works:

Hotlines

Hotlines are anonymous reporting channels where employees can report workplace violence or harassment by phone. 

These hotlines are typically operated by third-party organizations or service providers and offer a confidential platform for reporting concerns. Here's how hotlines can assist:

  1. Confidentiality: Hotline operators maintain strict confidentiality and anonymity for individuals who report incidents. Employees can feel reassured that their identity will not be disclosed without consent.

  2. 24/7 Availability: Hotlines are often available 24/7, allowing employees to report incidents anytime, even outside regular business hours. This ensures that individuals have access to support and assistance whenever needed.

  3. Trained Operators: Hotline operators are trained to handle sensitive and confidential information professionally. They listen to employees' concerns, provide support and guidance, and may offer referrals to appropriate resources or authorities for further assistance.

Online Reporting Platforms

Online reporting platforms are web-based systems that allow employees to electronically submit anonymous reports of workplace violence or harassment. 

These platforms offer a convenient and secure way for individuals to document incidents and seek assistance. Here's how online reporting platforms can assist:

  1. User-Friendly Interface: Online reporting platforms are designed to be user-friendly, allowing employees to submit reports quickly and easily from any internet-connected device.

  2. Secure and Confidential: Online reporting platforms employ robust security measures to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of individuals who submit reports. Employees can feel confident that their identity will remain protected.

  3. Automated Notifications: Online reporting platforms may include features such as automated notifications, alerting designated individuals within the organization to new reports. This ensures that reports are promptly reviewed and addressed by appropriate personnel.

Anonymous reporting options such as hotlines and online reporting platforms provide valuable avenues for employees to report incidents of workplace violence or harassment discreetly and safely. 

These options help ensure that individuals feel empowered to express their concerns without fear of reprisal, ultimately contributing to a safer and more respectful work environment.

Necessary Information for Reporting

necessary-information-for-reporting

This section outlines the essential information that employees should gather and provide when reporting incidents of workplace violence or harassment. 

Organizations can effectively investigate and address reported incidents by ensuring that reports contain comprehensive details.

Details of the Incident

Details of the incident encompass specific information about workplace violence or harassment. This includes:

Nature of the Incident

Describe the type of violence or harassment that occurred, such as physical assault, verbal abuse, bullying, or discrimination.

Date, Time, and Location

Date, time, and location refer to the specific details regarding when and where the incident occurred. This includes:

  1. Date and Time: Provide the date and time for the incident. This information helps establish the timeline of events and aids in investigating the incident.

  2. Location: Specify where the incident occurred, such as a workplace area or work site. This helps identify any environmental factors or conditions that may have contributed to the incident.

Description of Individuals Involved

Description of individuals involved includes identifying the individuals directly involved in the incident. This includes:

  1. The perpetrator (s): Describe the individual(s) responsible for the violence or harassment, including their name, job title (if known), physical description, and any other identifying information.

  2. Victim(s): Describe the individual(s) who were targeted or affected by the incident, including their name, job title (if known), and any other relevant details.

Witnesses, if any

Witnesses, if any, refer to individuals who observed the incident or have relevant information about what occurred. This includes:

  1. Identifying Witnesses: Identify any witnesses who were present during the incident and can provide firsthand accounts of what happened.

  2. Contact Information: Obtain contact information for witnesses, including their name, job title (if applicable), and preferred method of contact (phone number or email).

By gathering and providing these essential details when reporting workplace violence or harassment, employees help ensure that the organization thoroughly investigates and addresses incidents. This creates a safer and more respectful work environment for all employees.

Evidence Collection

evidence-collection

Evidence collection involves gathering relevant documentation and information to support the reported incident of workplace violence or harassment. 

Proper evidence collection is essential for conducting thorough investigations and taking appropriate actions to address the issue effectively.

Emails, Messages, or Letters

Emails, messages, or letters refer to written communications that may serve as evidence of workplace violence or harassment. This includes:

  1. Email Correspondence: Any emails between individuals involved in the incident or relevant parties, such as supervisors or HR personnel.

  2. Text Messages or Chat Logs: Records of text messages, instant messaging conversations, or chat logs that contain evidence of inappropriate behavior or threats.

  3. Letters or Notes: Physical or digital copies of letters, notes, or memos documenting harassment or threats.

Photographs or Videos

Photographs or videos can provide visual evidence of workplace violence or harassment incidents. This includes:

  1. Photographs: Images of physical injuries, property damage, or other evidence related to the incident.

  2. Videos: Recordings of the incident or its aftermath captured on surveillance cameras, smartphones, or other devices.

Medical Records (if applicable)

Medical records may be relevant if the incident resulted in physical injuries or psychological harm to the victim. This includes:

  1. Medical Reports: Documentation from healthcare professionals detailing injuries sustained during the incident and the treatment provided.

  2. Psychological Assessments: Records of psychological evaluations or therapy sessions that document the impact of the incident on the victim's mental health.

Individuals can provide substantiated accounts of workplace violence or harassment by collecting evidence such as emails, messages, photographs, videos, and medical records.

This evidence strengthens the case for investigation and ensures appropriate actions are taken to address the issue and prevent future occurrences.

Confidentiality and Protection Measures

confidentiality-and-protection-measures

This section addresses the importance of confidentiality and protection measures for individuals reporting workplace violence or harassment. 

It highlights the employer's responsibility to safeguard the privacy and well-being of reporting individuals. It outlines specific policies and measures to ensure confidentiality and prevent retaliation.

Employer's Duty to Protect

Employer's duty to protect refers to the legal and ethical responsibility of employers to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees, including those who report incidents of workplace violence or harassment. Here's how employers fulfill this duty:

  1. Providing a Safe Environment: Employers must create a work environment free from violence, harassment, and intimidation. This includes implementing policies and procedures to prevent and address workplace misconduct.

  2. Taking Prompt Action: Employers must take prompt and appropriate action in response to reports of workplace violence or harassment. This may involve conducting thorough investigations, implementing corrective measures, and supporting affected individuals.

Confidentiality Policies

Confidentiality policies outline the procedures and protocols to protect the privacy and confidentiality of individuals who report workplace violence or harassment. 

Critical aspects of confidentiality policies include:

  1. Limited Disclosure: Confidentiality policies specify who has access to information related to reported incidents and under what circumstances. This helps ensure that sensitive information is shared only on a need-to-know basis.

  2. Anonymous Reporting Options: Confidentiality policies may include provisions for anonymous reporting, allowing individuals to report incidents without revealing their identity. This encourages reporting and protects individuals from potential retaliation.

Anti-Retaliation Measures

Anti-retaliation measures are policies and practices to prevent retaliation against individuals who report workplace violence or harassment. These measures include:

  1. Non-Retaliation Policy: Employers should have clear policies prohibiting retaliation against employees who report workplace misconduct. This will send a message that retaliation will not be tolerated and provide recourse for victims.

  2. Whistleblower Protection Laws: In many jurisdictions, laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting law violations or unethical behavior. Employers must comply with these laws and refrain from retaliating against reporting individuals.

Legal Rights of Reporting Individuals

Reporting individuals' legal rights consist of those afforded to individuals who report workplace violence or harassment under relevant laws and regulations. These rights include:

  1. Protection from Discrimination: Reporting individuals are protected from discrimination or adverse treatment due to reporting workplace misconduct. Employers must ensure that reporting individuals are treated fairly and without prejudice.

  2. Access to Legal Remedies: Reporting individuals can pursue legal remedies if their rights are violated or they experience retaliation for reporting workplace misconduct. This may include filing complaints with government agencies or pursuing civil litigation against the employer.

Follow-Up Actions

follow-up-actions

Follow-up actions are the steps employers take after incidents of workplace violence or harassment have been reported. 

These actions aim to address the reported incidents, support affected individuals and prevent future occurrences. Here's a detailed overview:

Investigation Process

The investigation process involves conducting a thorough and impartial investigation into reported incidents of workplace violence or harassment. This includes:

  1. Gathering Evidence: Collecting relevant information, documentation, and witness statements to corroborate the reported incident and determine what occurred.

  2. Interviewing Parties: Interviewing individuals involved in the incident, including the reporting individual, alleged perpetrator(s), witnesses, and other relevant parties.

  3. Documenting Findings: Documenting the investigation's findings, including a summary of events, evidence collected, and conclusions reached.

  4. Taking Corrective Action: Employers may implement corrective measures to address the reported incident based on the investigation findings. These may include disciplinary action against perpetrators, counseling or training for employees involved, or policy revisions to prevent future occurrences.

Disciplinary Measures

Disciplinary measures involve imposing consequences on individuals found to have engaged in workplace violence or harassment. This includes:

  1. Verbal Warning: Informing the perpetrator verbally that their behavior is unacceptable may result in further disciplinary action if repeated.

  2. Written Warning: Providing a written warning to the perpetrator, documenting the incident and consequences of further misconduct.

  3. Suspension: Temporarily removing the perpetrator from the workplace for a specified period as a disciplinary measure.

  4. Termination: Terminating the perpetrator's employment if the behavior severely violates company policies or employment laws.

Counseling or Training

Workplace violence and harassment awareness training involves providing support and education to individuals involved in workplace violence or harassment incidents. This may include:

  1. Counseling Services: Offering counseling or therapy to victims of workplace violence or harassment to address emotional trauma and provide coping strategies.

  2. Training Programs: To prevent future incidents, conduct training sessions for employees on conflict resolution, communication skills, diversity and inclusion, and bystander intervention.

Suspension or Termination

Suspension or termination may be necessary in cases where individuals are found to have engaged in severe or repeated acts of workplace violence or harassment. 

Here's how suspension or termination may be implemented:

  1. Suspension: Temporarily removing the perpetrator from the workplace pending the outcome of the investigation or as a disciplinary measure.

  2. Termination: The perpetrator's employment may be terminated if the behavior constitutes a severe violation of company policies or employment laws and disciplinary measures have proven ineffective or inappropriate.

Victim Support Services

Victim support services aim to provide assistance and resources to individuals who have experienced workplace violence or harassment. This includes:

  1. Counseling Resources: Offering counseling or therapy to victims to address emotional trauma and provide coping strategies.

  2. Legal Assistance: Providing access to legal resources and support for victims who may need assistance navigating legal proceedings or filing complaints with relevant authorities.

By offering victim support services, employers demonstrate their commitment to supporting employees and addressing the impacts of workplace violence or harassment on affected individuals.

Final Words

Understanding how to report workplace violence & harassment is essential for creating a safe, respectful, and productive work environment. 

Throughout this blog, we've explored various aspects of recognizing, reporting, and responding to incidents of workplace violence and harassment.

Employers must protect their employees and proactively prevent and address workplace violence and harassment. This includes implementing clear policies, providing comprehensive training, and establishing robust reporting mechanisms.

When incidents do occur, it's crucial to respond promptly and effectively. This involves conducting thorough investigations, imposing appropriate disciplinary measures, and providing support services to victims. 

By holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and supporting those affected, organizations can send a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

A supportive environment fosters trust and healing within the workplace community.

Addressing workplace violence and harassment requires a collaborative effort from employers, employees, and stakeholders at all levels. By working together to create a culture of respect, inclusion, and accountability, we can build safer and more supportive workplaces for everyone.