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Dealing with harassment in the workplace

Harassment at work takes all shapes and forms. Sometimes it's blatant, but often it's more subtle. Maybe you received threatening messages from coworkers because of your national origin. Maybe you are the victim of offensive remarks due to your gender.

If you believe that you have experienced harassment at work, no matter how it happened, you should know you aren't powerless. It is possible to take action to hold your employer accountable for stopping the behavior. Here's what you can do:

1. Know your rights. Federal and Florida laws protect workers from illegal harassment based on their protected status, such as age, disability, race, gender, religion or national origin.

2. Keep records. You should keep records of the harassment you experienced, including the timing and location of the behavior, as well as who was involved.

3. Report the harassment to your human resources department. Your employer may have a policy against harassment and procedures for reporting it.

4. Talk to an employment law attorney. If the behavior does not stop, talk to an attorney about your legal options. Those options may include filing a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC requires that you file a charge with their office before you file a lawsuit against your employer.

It's important to respond promptly. If you wait too long to file a harassment or discrimination claim, your case may be harder to prove.

Not all actions that are objectionable qualify as illegal harassment under the law. Before you take action, seek advice from an experienced employment law attorney.

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