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What Is Harassment In The Workplace And How To Defend Your Rights

Harassment in the workplace is a very serious issue. Have you ever felt intimidated or humiliated at work? The scope of harassment is broad and diverse, ranging from bullying to sexual harassment. Unwanted behavior in whatever form it takes is least of all extremely uncomfortable and in worst-case scenarios there can be traumatic consequences. 

Workplace harassment for example is a type of harassment that’s particularly frustrating and traumatic. Let’s explore workplace harassment and how to defend your rights during workplace harassment. 

What Is Workplace Harassment?

What constitutes workplace harassment is not always quantifiable. As is explained in this article there are grey areas and nuances when it comes to workplace harassment. Here are some of the types of harassment in the workplace to watch out for:

  • Verbal harassment in which demeaning remarks, unreasonable criticism, insults, slurs, unwanted “jokes” and hurtful comments are experienced on a repeated basis
  • Psychological harassment includes behavior like taking credit for someone’s achievement, making impossible demands, imposing unreasonable deadlines on a particular employee, constantly requiring an employee to perform demeaning tasks that are outside of their job scope, or persistently opposing everything someone
  • Physical harassment in the workplace includes seemingly harmless but unwanted gestures like touching clothing, hair, face, or skin, shoving, kicking, or more severe actions like physical assault, threats of violence, and damage to personal property
  • Sexual harassment is one of the most unfortunate types of harassment in the workplace. According to this survey, it’s more common than you’d think, affecting both genders. Inappropriate touching, sexual jokes, sharing pornography, sending sexual messages, or requiring sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or job security are all some examples of sexual harassment 
  • Digital harassment, also known as cyberbullying, is the newest form of harassment that’s prevalent in the workplace. It’s a lot easier to be meaner behind a screen. Examples include posting threats or demeaning comments on social media, creating a fake persona to bully someone online, creating a webpage about the victim to mock and belittle them, and false allegations posted online

How To Defend Your Rights If You’re Being Harassed

You’re not without rights if you’re being harassed in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces workplace rights with laws such as: 

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) which makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) which protects people who are 40 or older from ageist discrimination 

Here’s how to defend these and your other rights:

Gather Evidence

Harassment often results in he said she said type scenarios. If you can, document the harassment as proof of the infringements on your rights. 

How you can keep track of harassment, depending on the type of harassment, is by doing things like taking screenshots of messages, noting the names of eyewitnesses, or jotting down the time, date, and location of the harassment. Record any instances you see of your harasser similarly tormenting others as well.

Report To Human Resources 

Human resources are there to investigate and resolve precisely these kinds of situations in the workplace. If you’ve tried to amicably communicate your thoughts and feelings to your harasser and the situation persists or escalates, file a report at your human resources departments soon as possible. 

Your company may have a different change of command or channel of reporting such cases. Find out and follow the appropriate procedure. 

File A Report

Sometimes HR is more on the side of your harasser. If this is the case and your workplace’s HR mishandled the case and covered it up, report it to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This way your case will be investigated partially. 

Alternatively, large municipalities and metro areas, like New York City and California have their own laws and agencies regulating workplace conduct. If you live in one of these states you may claim that state. Visit your state’s website or call to find out the proper way to file your claim.

Hire A Lawyer

Your best bet is to hire an experienced lawyer who specializes in employment issues. Often, issues regarding harassment in the workplace are attempted to be resolved through Alternative Dispute Resolution means like mediation. Again, this process could be more beneficial to the harasser. This is why it’s recommended that you hire an attorney to represent you. A good lawyer will advise you of your legal rights and give you an idea of how to best proceed with your claim in a manner that best defends your rights. 

Harassment in the workplace is unpleasant, causing traumatic feelings of humiliation, dividing the workplace, and decreasing productivity. It must be addressed properly.