Workplace harassment

Types of Harassment in the Workplace

  • Workplace harassment is all too common, and can ruin a great job and turn a company into a toxic and unproductive environment.
  • Often, harassment goes unreported, as victims may be unsure of what qualifies as workplace harassment and what to do when they experience it.
  • Many workers may remain unsure what constitutes harassment, sexual or otherwise. Learn what the law says about workplace harassment and how to protect yourself.  
  • Definition of Workplace Harassment
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as unwelcome verbal or physical behavior that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), gender/gender identity, nationality, age (40 or older), physical or mental disability, or genetic information.4þffHarassment becomes unlawful when:
    1. Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a prerequisite to continued employment, or
    2. The conduct is severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would consider the workplace intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Also, if a supervisor’s harassment results in an obvious change in the employee’s salary or status, this conduct would be considered unlawful workplace harassment.
  • Some states have broader definitions of what constitutes harassment. For instance, a court in Florida determined that “fat jokes” made about an obese employee violated the Americans With Disabilities Act
  • Harassing conduct may include offensive jokes, slurs, name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures, and more.
  • Note that not all unpleasant behavior qualifies as harassment. Per the EEOC: “Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”
  • Laws regarding workplace harassment are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Any individual who believes that their employment rights have been violated may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
  • However, prior to doing so, the EEOC advises that victims should usually make an effort to address the situation by reaching out to the offending individual directly.4þff Describe your feelings and the unacceptable language or behavior and request that it stop. Another option could involve contacting your supervisor for assistance if you are uncomfortable confronting the offender directly.
  • Job applicants and other harassment victims may choose to consult a labor/employment attorney if other measures have not resulted in a satisfactory resolution. If so, be sure to select a lawyer with extensive experience and or a certification in employment law.

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