What Exactly is Workplace Harassment?

What Exactly is Workplace Harassment?

What Exactly is Workplace Harassment?

Regardless of where you work or what you do, there is always potential for workplace harassment. Workplace harassment occurs when someone says or does something that creates a hostile work environment for you or other employees. Sometimes the harassment may be subtle enough that you might not even fully realize the severity of the situation. In many cases, though, victims of harassment are completely aware of their situation. Read on to learn about different types of workplace harassment and what you can do about it.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Recently, the #metoo movement highlighted just how prevalent sexual harassment is in our society. Essentially, sexual harassment involves the making of obscene remarks or unwanted sexual advances. This can be by someone of either the same or opposite sex. Often these comments or actions can imply that if the victim doesn’t go along with the behavior, they might lose their job. Some examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Sending suggestive messages by mail, email, or text;
  • Sharing explicit photographs;
  • Telling vulgar jokes or stories;
  • Making sexual gestures;
  • Displaying sexual images or posters;
  • Staring in an inappropriate way;
  • Whistling;
  • Commenting on the clothes or body parts of a coworker;
  • Inappropriate touching; and/or
  • Asking questions about someone’s sexual orientation or sexual history.

Examples of Other Forms of Harassment

Any time someone says or does things that create a hostile work environment, that is harassment. Although sexual harassment is one of the best known forms of harassment, there are actually many ways an employee can be harassed. Some examples of other forms of workplace harassment are because of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and age.

Truthfully, you could even count hair color on this list if there is a coworker who insists on telling “dumb blonde” jokes. Here are some other ways that you might find harassment in the workplace:

  • Offensive gestures, drawings, or clothing;
  • Negative comments about beliefs or values;
  • Trying to convert employees to other beliefs or values;
  • Using racist verbiage;
  • Saying offensive things about one’s physical or mental abilities;
  • Sharing inappropriate images or text; and/or
  • Using demeaning verbiage about coworkers for any reason.

What Can You Do?

If you are a victim of or witness workplace harassment, notify human resources immediately. It’s a good idea to have a log of specific incidents, so keep notes on what happened and when. Share this information with human resources.

If an employee’s behavior doesn’t change, others can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This must be done within 180 days. To learn more about how the Fernald & Zaffos can help you deal with workplace harassment, click here.

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