Workplace Harassment: How to Recognize and Report It

Workplace harassment takes many forms. Here’s how to identify some of the most common forms of harassment – and what you should do if you see it happening.

  • Physical, verbal, sexual, and emotional harassment at work is all possible.
  • People of all genders are affected by workplace harassment. A victim might be anyone.
  • To protect yourself, be careful to speak with your human resources department as soon as you suspect that you have been the victim of workplace harassment.
  • This article is intended for workers who believe they or a coworker may be a victim of workplace harassment as well as business owners who wish to protect the security of their staff members.

In the United States, there is workplace harassment in all kinds of jobs. To prevent a hostile work environment in your small business, it’s critical to understand workplace harassment, which can range from bullying to blatant discrimination. You may take the required action to ensure that all of your workers have a safe working environment by developing a workplace harassment policy.

While verbal and psychological harassment are the most common sorts, there are also more dangerous variations including physical and sexual harassment. Workplace harassment of any kind is prohibited. They not only have an impact on a worker’s performance, comfort, and safety at work, but they may also expose a company to legal risk if harassment is not handled correctly.

What constitutes workplace harassment?

Inappropriate jokes, slurs, epithets, or name-calling, physical threats or assaults, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or images, and interference with work performance are all examples of harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Additionally, harassment happens in a range of situations, including the following:

  • A supervisor, a supervisor in a different department, an agent of the employer, a coworker, or a non-employee might be the harasser.
  • Anyone impacted by the objectionable behaviour might be the victim; the harassed individual does not necessarily have to be the victim.
  • Unlawful harassment is possible even when the victim is not financially harmed or fired.

First and foremost, Becca Garvin, an executive search consultant with Find Great People, stressed the importance of knowing when you are being harassed at work. There are many murky areas in the significant problem of workplace harassment. It is your responsibility to report any incidents of harassment at work or that you see. Remember that you are protected by laws against workplace harassment if you’re concerned that you’ll be fired in retribution.

The law gives you protection not only from the harasser, but also from your employer failing to do so, according to Garvin. “You cannot lose your job by reporting it yourself if you know someone who is being harassed at work.”

Physical proof of workplace harassment may or may not exist. When bringing up the situation with the HR department, it might be helpful to understand what is happening to you.

Types of workplace harassment

It is not always easy to recognize workplace harassment since it can take many different forms. Knowing the many signs of workplace harassment might help you spot it when it affects you or a coworker.

Verbal harassment

The constant war of devastation that verbal abuse can entail may endanger both your job and health. It comprises of insulting comments, rude body language, and irrational criticism. It may include epithets, slurs, offensive jokes, and cruel remarks.

Since verbal harassment is a non-physical type of violence, it can be challenging to identify and frequently falls into a grey area.

Even though such behaviour can have a negative psychological impact on the victim and result in outcomes like depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety, Chris Chancy, founder and CEO of Amplio Recruiting, said that it is frequently perceived as a case of personality conflict and not as harassment.

Psychological harassment

Similar to verbal harassment, psychological harassment uses exclusionary strategies like withholding information or gaslighting but is more subtle. According to Chancy, these behaviours are meant to mentally debilitate the victim, undermine their self-worth, and chip away at their confidence.

It may not seem like harassment, but actions like taking credit for someone else’s success, placing unreasonable demands on a specific employee, forcing them to perform humiliating tasks outside of their job description, or persistently disagreeing with everything someone says can be a form of psychological bullying, according to the expert.

Digital harassment (cyberbullying)

Even if it occurs online, digital harassment may be equally as harmful as bullying that occurs in person. It is the most recent type of harassment, and it happens everywhere.

Digital harassment, according to Sheri Mooney, CEO and president of Mind Squad HR, “includes posting threatening or humiliating remarks on social media, establishing a fake identity to intimidate someone online, building a webpage about the victim to mock and degrade them, and making false charges online.”

Given the prevalence of internet-connected gadgets in the workplace and the increased acceptance of forbidden themes on social media, Chancy said that it is now simple for anybody to engage in digital harassment of others.

Behind a screen, people “tend to be braver, which, regrettably, means being meaner,” according to Garvin. “The good thing about internet harassment is that it can be simply and accurately documented. This is quite helpful for reporting and supporting it.

Garvin advised collecting pictures, storing emails on your computer, and keeping a dossier of everything that makes you uncomfortable in order to keep an eye on the issue.

Physical harassment

The severity of physical harassment at work varies. According to Mooney, these might range from mildly offensive gestures, such as caressing an employee’s hair, face, or skin, to more serious ones, such as physical assault, threats of violence, and damage to private property.

Physical harassment can vary greatly in severity, making it hard to pinpoint. Chancy added that if no bodily harm is done, some physical harassment may be dismissed as a joke.

“If a worker regularly pushes, blocks, and kicks a coworker, but the victim has never been wounded from the shoves and kicks, this could not be perceived as harassment, especially if it is done by a supervisor or an otherwise high-performing worker,” the author writes.

It may nonetheless qualify as physical harassment even if no serious bodily injury results. Employees should contact 911 right away if there is violence and refrain from becoming involved.

Sexual harassment

Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment is a severe infraction that occurs frequently. A McKinsey poll found that 35% of the female respondents had experienced sexual harassment at work. Furthermore, it’s a common crime that doesn’t just affect women. Anyone can engage in or experience sexual harassment.

Unwanted sexual approaches including improper touching, sexual jokes, exchanging pornography, sending sexual messages, or asking for sexual favours in return for a promotion or job security are all considered sexual harassment. It may not always be easy to define sexual harassment, despite the fact that it may appear simple.

Sexual harassment at work isn’t always extreme, according to Chancy. The majority of the time, it is concealed in light-hearted conversation, inoffensive remarks coupled by suggestive body language or tones, or embarrassing but first innocent words that disparage members of a certain gender – mostly women.

As a result, there is room for ambiguity, which makes it simple for offenders to get away with their actions. According to Mooney, many victims want to keep their circumstances private in the hope that things would get better. Some victims are quite worried that if they disclose the harassment they may face reprisal, which might include losing their jobs. However, you should report it if someone is making the workplace unfriendly and making you feel uneasy.

Why reporting workplace harassment is important

Mooney emphasized the need of reporting any type of workplace harassment since it’s possible that others have already reported the same offender for similar actions (or group of people). It is even more crucial to bring it to HR’s attention if no one has yet reported it. Whether or not they opted to report it, you never know how many other people the offender may have hurt.

There are established protocols for reporting workplace harassment in many firms. If you’re dedicated to reporting, be sure to consult your employee handbook or ask your HR department how to proceed.

How to report workplace harassment

If your employer doesn’t have a formal reporting process in place, here are some of the steps that you can follow in a nonviolent situation:

  1. Try to talk things out with the harasser directly if there isn’t any physical violence involved. Explain why you believe you are being harassed to them in private. If it appears to be too risky to proceed, your safety should come first.
  2. If your boss isn’t the culprit, you could want to talk to them about escalating the situation. If you can’t get the harasser to stop, bring the situation to HR’s notice. Provide supporting documentation, such as screenshots, messages, emails, and eyewitness reports, if you can. If your business employs HR software, you should report concerns through the relevant portal to verify that everything is recorded.
  3. Contact the EEOC so they may conduct an unbiased investigation if you believe your supervisors, HR, or corporate management handled your matter improperly. A victim may file a claim through a municipality if it has its own rules and authorities governing workplace conduct, as is the case in several sizable towns and metro regions, including New York City.

What to avoid when facing workplace harassment

When dealing with workplace harassment, you should avoid a few behaviors, according to Chancey. These mistakes could serve to escalate the situation or put you in a dangerous position.

Do not retaliate.

Retaliation has the potential to worsen the situation and frequently makes things more complex. Instead, appropriately escalate the situation and then allow your HR staff take over.

Do not complain to co-workers.

If summoned to testify, your coworkers won’t likely support your version of events and have limited ability to influence events. Additionally, keep in mind that everyone of your coworkers has a unique relationship with the others. You never know how the victim feels about the offender, and speaking poorly of them might further complicate matters (even if it is warranted).

Do not keep quiet.

Any sort of harassment should always be reported, and it should be dealt with appropriately. Quietness won’t stop the offender’s behaviour, so don’t do it. Every instance of harassment should be reported, and every complaint should be properly looked into. When Should a Company Hire a Full-Time Human Resources Employee?]

Workplace harassment laws

Effective policy begins with the choices made by business owners, but there are also federal and state regulations that protect employees against harassment at work. The federal government’s mandate that all firms offer equal employment opportunities to all Americans is a well-known example. This is typically included in an “equal opportunity employer” section at the conclusion of job advertising and applications.

Other workplace harassment regulations include the following:

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 forbids companies from paying men and women in the same job who perform the same amount of labour with unequal compensation.

VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it is forbidden to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their race, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Additionally, it defends those who come forward to report these offences, whether at work or elsewhere.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, people over 40 cannot be subjected to age-based discrimination at work.

While these are the most notable instances of discrimination legislation, secure workplaces are the product of carefully thought out and continuously followed individual workplace regulations. No matter if you work for or run a small business, try your hardest to promote and create a pleasant workplace culture while safeguarding your coworkers and employees. It will shield your company from any liabilities and foster a welcoming atmosphere that raises spirits and increases staff retention.

Both you and your staff should be knowledgeable about these laws. Make sure you write an employee handbook so that every individual you recruit is aware of the rules your company has against harassment in the workplace.

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