Last year, Stop Street Harassment, a nonprofit organization, launched an online survey asking questions about sexual harasssment. The survey found that 38% of women had been subjected to a hostile work environment and sexual harassment at work. Of these women, 63% opted not to file a complaint. And for the men, 79% of men who have been harassed at work or work in a hostile environment chose to keep quiet about it.
The main reason? They thought nobody would believe them. And when you look at the percentage of victims who experience retaliation after filing a complaint (55%) you can understand why.
The extremely unfair truth is that without solid evidence, the people who know the perpetrator will become inadvertent character witnesses. It’s hard for people to believe that someone they know could be a predator because that reflects back on them. When it’s a he said/she said game and there are hierarchy dynamics at play, the water gets even murkier.
If this is happening to you and you want to report it, we strongly encourage you to do so. But we also know that it can feel hopeless when you’re reporting their words and actions without evidence.
In this article, we’re going to look at the tools you can use to prove that you’re being subjected to a hostile work environment and we’ve also included some bonus additional resources that will help you with who talk to, what procedures your work should follow and how you can follow up with the case to make sure that they’re taking it seriously.
Hostile Work Environment & Sexual Harassment
So, a hostile work environment and sexual harassment - what are they? Are they the same thing with a different name?
While we hear the term workplace harassment more often, that only focuses on one specific type of harassment. A hostile work environment is an umbrella term for any kind of conduct that severely impacts your ability to do your work.
An unlikeable, annoying or rude colleague, although annoying, doesn’t constitute a hostile work environment.
Under the guidelines of the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC) a hostile work environment occurs when:
There’s harassment and discrimination based on race, sex, pregnancy, religion, genetics, disability, nationality.
The conduct has been going on for a long time.
The work environment becomes abusive and unbearable.
Proving harassment is hard because unless you have evidence, you need to keep a detailed log of all the incidents and a log of when you reported it and to whom. However, with audio and visual footage, you’ll have enough evidence to move forward with charges or your complaint immediately.
Best for disguise: The 16 Hour Voice Recorder Pen
The 16 Hour Voice Recorder Pen is one of our top sellers and the first choice for people who want to stop a hostile work environment.
It’s got top of the line sound quality that can pick up voices from 45 feet away, so you don’t have to worry about getting too close to the perpetrator to catch what they’re saying. It also only starts recording when there’s a conversation, so the battery life lasts longer. And finally, the slide up/down clip makes quick, last-minute recording easy to do, but hard to spot.
If you’re worried about installing software to be able to record and listen - don’t be. It comes with a USB port and works on all computers. You don’t need software. All you have to do is plug it into your PC to transfer the files.
For safety reasons, you can’t listen to the footage directly from the pen. It looks and functions like a pen, so you’ll have to listen via your computer if you want to hear the audio.
Best for Battery Life: Power Bank Voice Activated Recorder
In difficult situations, pressing “record” might be the last thing on your mind. Also, sometimes you’re just not sure when an inappropriate conversation or event will happen. Having a device that will be able to record without you monitoring it is helpful in these situations, which is why the power bank voice activated recorder is another popular choice.
It’s bigger than the pen, which leaves space for a bigger battery and longer battery life. It’s still perfectly disguised, though, as it functions as your everyday power bank. You can even use it to charge your phone and nobody will know because there’s a trap door concealing the controls for the audio-recording.
The power bank recorder can pick up conversations from 50 feet away, the battery life can record for 14 continuous days with 150 days of standby power. You probably won’t need ALL that time without a charge, but it gives you peace of mind to know that as long as you have the recorder with you, you’ll be sure to have enough power and range to capture whatever evidence you need.
And added bonus: the power bank recorder has a magnet you can use to conceal it. You can place it under desks or chairs so it stays hidden even when you’re not in the room.
Best for recording details: 1080p Keychain Camera: Unfortunately, sometimes, audio recordings won’t be enough evidence to show that you’re in a hostile work environment. Having audio AND visual recordings will add more proof to whatever situation you’re facing. However, cameras are riskier because you need to place it in a specific position in the room to get the footage you need.
Our answer to this? A keychain camera. Wherever you place it, it won’t arouse suspicion because it looks exactly like a keychain.
The keychain camera is our most popular wearable camera. It records videos at 1080p, which is the best quality you can get for a wearable camera. The 90 minutes of battery life isn’t as impressive as the power bank recorder, but the added features make it worthwhile.
You can also take clear, quality pictures with its 12 megapixel camera and it has short range night vision. To take a picture, all you have to do is tap the middle button.
When you gather evidence, including as many details as possible is essential to your case. The keychain’s date and time stamp on videos and photos is an added bonus that will keep things organized and in check for you.
Smallest Recorder: Slim Micro Voice Recorder:
If you’re looking for a recorder that isn’t necessarily hidden, but still does the job, then consider the slim micro voice recorder. It looks exactly like a recorder, but it’s small enough to fit into your bag, pocket, or purse.
There’s an easy to use on/off switch so you can start and stop recordings while the device is in your pocket. The 8 hour battery life is long enough to last for most of your work day and you can charge it and get the files by plugging a USB port into your computer.
A helpful feature you’ll only get with this recorder is that you can listen to recordings straight from the device. All you have to do is plug a pair of headphones into the headphone jack and you’ll be able to listen to your recordings immediately.
Best for Recording Phone Calls: Phone Call Recording Earbud A hostile work environment isn’t limited to the confines of the walls of your office. With phones and emails, managers and colleagues seem to think it’s okay to intrude on the hours when you’re not working, and something who’s harassing you might do this too.
In this case, your best bet for gathering evidence is to record your phone calls with the phone call recording earbud. You have to purchase a voice recorder with it (we recommend the above micro slim voice recorder). When you get an intrusive phone call, place the earbud into the same ear that you’re listening to the conversation with and place the audio connection into the slot on the recorder.
The micro slim voice recorder will be able to hear and record both sides of the conversation.
Know your rights
As an employee, there are laws in place that protect you against hostile work environments.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts states that no employee should refuse to hire or discharge someone because of their race, color, religion, sex, or nationality.
There are also specific laws for age and disability discrimination. The Age Discrimination Employment Act states that it’s unlawful to refuse employment to someone based on their age. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities and they should be given the same employment opportunities.
What to do if you’re in a hostile work environment
File a complaint with your manager:
The moment something uncomfortable happens, file a complaint with your manager. If your manager is the perpetrator, then file a complaint with his manager. Your manager will let you know about what to do next. Sometimes, they’ll have a conversation with the person and hopefully, the behavior will stop without repercussions. Keep a record of the complaint you made, who you made it to, and the date you filed it. Ask your manager what they’re going to do about it and when you can expect that to happen.
Often, we find that by the time customers reach us, they’ve followed their work processes and nobody believed them or nothing was done. In this case, your next step is to gather evidence. This is where the spy equipment for a hostile work environment comes in along with any emails, text messages, or recorded phone calls that you have.
File a complaint with HR
You can choose to file a complaint with HR before or after you’ve gathered evidence. Having the evidence will bolster your complaint, but we know that’s something you’d prefer to avoid if you can. As you did with your manager, ask what they’re going to do about it and when you can expect a result.
Seek legal advice
If your employer fails to address your complaints, then it’s time to seek legal advice. This might mean bringing the case to court, so just make sure you’re ready for that. Find a reputable lawyer who specializes in workplace harassment. Show the lawyer the evidence you gathered, the complaints you filed, and how your work has been affected. Lawyer costs often put people off, but if your company has failed to do anything about it before, then they may be liable for these costs.
A hostile work environment is one of those things where you either think that it’s normal to not get along with everyone at work and perhaps the perpetrators behavior “isn’t that bad” or you think you have to grin and bear it for the sake of the paycheque. But really, you don’t. If it’s affecting you negatively, then you have a strong enough reason to complain and you have every right to.
Please reach out to us for any advice on how to use the equipment and how to safely use it and store evidence if you need to.