Collecting Email Evidence of Workplace Harassment

Feb 23 2022

Joshua Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda.

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh. What are we going to talk about today?

Goodbaum: I thought we could talk about workplace harassment – obviously, a serious issue – and employees who are trying to engage in what we would call “self-help.” So, we’ve talked before about employees who try to record – using their phone, for example – workplace interactions that they think show harassment. But there are other ways that employees can try to collect evidence on their own. Some of those ways are better than others, and one of those ways is employees are often tempted to forward emails or other documents to themselves from their work accounts to their personal accounts because they think, “I want to have this evidence so I can talk about it with a lawyer,” right? Is that a good idea?

DeMatteis: It very well could not be a good idea, and it happens all the time, and we get it, right? You’re feeling like you’re desperate. You want to be able to go to a lawyer and say, “Look at all this evidence I have. Look at what my employer is doing to me.” I mean, to be able to prove it, right? More than just your word. But it could really get you into hot water.

One of the biggest pieces of advice we give people who are being harassed at work and who it’s impacting them – on a personal level, on a professional level, on an emotional level – is look, you have to dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. You really have to be on your best behavior, because that’s the prime time for you to just accidentally slip up, and the number one thing that you don’t want to do is give your employer a legitimate reason to take some type of action against you or to terminate you, and forwarding yourself emails could be one of those things.

Think about it: Maybe you work for someone that has private, confidential information – a bank, any type of healthcare institution, any type of financial institution. You have to be really careful, because what you can be doing is forwarding yourself confidential information that should not be leaving that employer. So, that’s one issue.

It also could be a violation of [your employer’s] policy that simply says you may not forward yourself or you may not remove company emails from work and by simply hitting forward and sending something to your private email account, you’re doing that. Not to mention, with the level of IT in most of these institutions at this time, your employer is going to know immediately when it’s done. Think about it, from a bank standpoint, right? The minute you hit forward or print on an email, that’s all tracked, that’s all logged, and your employer could know that you’re doing it.

So, what do you do? You have this information. You want to somehow retain it.

Here’s a couple of ideas. Number one, you can make a list for yourself. Write down on a piece of paper the date of the communication, who it was to, who it was from, something that identifies it, so that when you go to an employment lawyer, you can say, “Here are the emails that I think you need to see in order to see evidence to substantiate and support my claims.”

The other thing you should do: Take those emails and turn them into PDFs. Save that PDF on the employer’s server into a folder. Name that folder something like, “Evidence of workplace harassment” or “Evidence of hostile work environment,” and keep it right on the server. Make sure you write down the path exactly how you get to it so that, again, when you’re sitting down with an employment lawyer, you can say, “I’ve stored all the evidence you need, it’s on the employer server, here’s where you find it.”

Now, your employment lawyer can get on the phone with counsel for your employer and say, “Hey, here’s all the evidence on your server that you could very easily locate to see exactly what’s been going on.” So you’re still preserving all that evidence, you’re still helping yourself, you’re helping your employment lawyer, and you’re not putting yourself in hot water, you’re not giving them a reason to terminate you, and that’s super important. Hope that’s helpful.

Goodbaum: Great advice! Thanks so much, Amanda. Take care.

DeMatteis: Take care.

Share this Post

amanda dematteis discussing workplace harassment

About the Author

Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C.

Advocating for Employees
since 1977

Best Lawyers

Let Us Review Your Case

    We will respond to your message promptly. Although we will keep your message strictly confidential, please note that contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

    Client Experiences

    During a very difficult employment situation, I was referred to Joe Garrison. Recognizing the volatile and time sensitive nature of my employment situation, Mr. Garrison met with me immediately (on the weekend no less). He listened to the details of my case, was able to think through possible creative solutions to offer the employer, and was responsive to my myriad of questions. He understood my concerns about litigation versus settlement, and he worked to find the best resolution possible. I am grateful to have had his support at a very difficult time. —J.C., New Haven, CT

    You will never meet a more knowledgeable and compassionate professional than Steve Fitzgerald. My employment situation was very complex, and Attorney Fitzgerald kept me focused while remaining extremely adept and “thinking on his feet.” Should the need present itself again, I would never seek anyone else’s counsel regarding employment issues. I cannot recommend him highly enough. — J.R., New Haven, CT

    Nina Pirrotti provided outstanding legal advice and was trustworthy, dependable, and responsive. From the start, I was confident that her knowledge and experience would obtain favorable results. On a more personal note, I enjoyed working with her and her staff and felt I was included in every part of the process. The dedication, concern, and interest in me as a client was greatly appreciated, and Nina has earned my highest recommendation. — J.H., Monroe, CT

    I recently found myself in need of a lawyer in handling a dispute with my former employer. I was fortunate to retain Josh Goodbaum as my legal counsel. His legal skills knowledge and professionalism shone through in every step of the process resulting in a very positive result. I highly recommend Josh if you find yourself in need of legal counsel. — S.R., Guilford, CT

    When I go to a lawyer for advice, I am usually anxious, particularly the first meeting. Amanda DeMatteis was clear in describing my options and immediately set me at ease. Realistic assessment is important, and Amanda was clear as to how to set up the case and the direction she felt we should go. I had total confidence in her abilities and knew I was being well represented against a large corporation. More importantly, we were successful! —N.M., Haddam, CT

    Advocating for Employees since 1977

    American Law Institute Super Lawyers American College of Trial Lawyers Best Lawyers The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
    Back to Top
    (203) 815-1716