What Is Workplace Harassment Under the Law?
Harassment can be a form of employment discrimination under various federal, state and local laws. In order to be considered discrimination, the harassment must be based on some protected trait. Under federal law, those traits include race, color, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, religion, disability, and genetic information.
Many state and local governments have enacted similar anti-discrimination laws, like New York State’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination on grounds similar to those protected under federal law as well as sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, arrest and conviction record, military status or service, observance of Sabbath, political activities, unemployment status, and status as a victim of domestic violence.
How Workplace Harassment affects employees:
When an employee is being subjected to workplace harassment, the workplace can become a toxic environment, with the constant threat of physical and/or emotional harm. This can lead to severe distress for employees, with individuals at risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or panic attacks, as well as the physical symptoms that accompany these disorders.
Low productivity, motivation and morale levels, also effects the bottom line of company profits may also be signs that an employee is suffering from some form of harassment. As well as causing direct and immediate suffering for individuals, sexual harassment can interfere with work performance, career progression and even result in people being forced out of their job and income completely.
Identifying Workplace Harassment:
Workplace harassment may or may not include physical evidence the subject. According to the (EEOC), offensive conduct can include, among other things, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.
Workplace Harassment also occurs in a variety of office situations, such as:
- Workplace harassment may occur without economic injury to the victim.
- Verbal harassment can be an ongoing battle of destruction that can threaten your health and your career.
- It consists of demeaning remarks, offensive gestures and unreasonable criticism. It can involve insults, slurs, unwanted “jokes” and hurtful comments. Verbal harassment can be difficult to recognize and is oftentimes a gray area, since it is a nonphysical form of violence.
- Unwelcome conduct
- Either by peers or manager
- Pictures of an inappropriate nature
- Suggestive looks & gestures
- Unnecessary flirting
Psychological Workplace harassment:
Psychological harassment is similar to verbal harassment, but it is much more subtle, and consists of various forms of exclusionary tactics, bullying & withholding important work related information. These workplace psychological actions simply de-value self-esteem and will over time, deliberately undermines the employee’s ability to perform their work related tasks. Accepting credit for a fellow employee’s achievements, making unrealistic work demands, imposing impossible to accomplish deadlines on a particular employee, demanding & creating demeaning tasks that are outside fellow employee’s job description.
Digital Workplace Harassment (cyberbullying)
Even though social media harassment is online, it can be just as detrimental as in-person harassment. It is the newest form of harassment and occurs across many forms, or new methods of social media communication.
- Social media harassment includes posting inappropriate or demeaning comments about fellow employees, creating a fake persona to bully someone online, creating a specific online platform, about the victim to belittle them and or simply making false allegations online.
- Social media has become very common in the workplace, and with the discussion of taboo topics becoming more acceptable,
- People tend to be much more aggressive communicating behind a screen. The positive news about online workplace harassment: It is documented, providing immediate proof of cyberbully. The victim, simply needs to be brave & come forward & report inappropriate conduct.
Workplace Physical harassment:
Physical harassment in the workplace can take various forms. Some of these areas include: simple unwanted gestures like touching an employee’s clothing, hair, face or skin. all inappropriate. The various forms or degrees of physical harassment, it can sometimes be hard to identify one of the primary reasons, is the excuse: “I was just joking around or kidding. If an employee systemically touches, blocks or kicks a fellow employee, it might not be seen as harassment, especially if it is done by a manager,
Workplace Sexual harassment:
Sexual harassment is a serious offense and is more common than you might think. It has been estimated that 40 percent of female respondents and 18 percent of male respondents have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. It is a prevalent crime and is not exclusive to just women.
A person of any color, gender or age can be the perpetrator or the victim of sexual harassment. Harassing conduct may include offensive jokes, racial slurs, name-calling, physical threats, ridicule, inappropriate pictures, and more. Workplace harassment isn’t limited to just harassment, and doesn’t preclude harassment between two people of the same gender. The harasser can be your boss, manager or a co-worker, or even a vendor. Interestingly, the victim doesn’t necessarily have to be the person being harassed; it can be anyone affected by the harassing behavior.
To file a valid harassment claim, the employee must show that your employer tried to prevent and correct the harassing conduct and that the employee unreasonably rejected the employer’s corrective efforts.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
How to Prevent Workplace Harassment:
Please use note the following tips to prevent harassment in the workplace:
- Be sensitive about the opinions and concerns of fellow employees.
- Be familiar with the Equal Opportunity and Workplace Harassment policies, which should be posted.
- Do your best to be courteous, demonstrating workplace professional behavior.
- Always report behavior that is inappropriate.
- Think how your interactions with co-workers may be portrayed by others. Use your family members as examples, in trying to determine unprofessional behavior. In other words, would you treat your uncle or daughter this way?
- Encourage everyone in the workplace to report inappropriate behavior and harassment.
- Understand the confidentiality of any sexual harassment investigations. The investigation process could include several people, so be prepared.
- Respect your personal boundaries & space
- Make sure you always act professional, with a solid sense of humor.
How to Report Workplace Harassment?
If you feel you’re a victim of workplace harassment:
- Do not ignore inappropriate or unprofessional behavior.
- Document all relevant actions and exchanges. Include the date, time, place, and names of possible witnesses.
- Immediately report the behavior to a manager. If a supervisor is the harasser (or if your supervisor fails to report the behavior), go to his/her supervisor, HR or right up the chain of command.