A Complete Guide To Workplace Harassment: What to Know

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Workplace harassment is something none of us want to deal with in our careers, but the unfortunate reality is that it does happen. 

If you are an employee, you need to know what workplace harassment looks like so that you can recognise and deal with it appropriately should it happen to you. On the other side of the coin, employers need to know about workplace harassment in order to handle it efficiently and minimize instances of this type of behavior in the workplace. 

This is a complete guide to workplace harassment, including how to recognise workplace harassment, what you should do as an employee if you’re being harassed at work, and how you should handle a workplace harassment situation as an employer

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What Does Workplace Harassment Look Like?

Part of what makes workplace harassment so difficult to deal with at times is because it can take many different forms. 

For a start, workplace harassment can either be physical, verbal, or done online. 

 

Verbal Harassment 

Workplace harassment can also be verbal. Yelling and cursing is a type of verbal harassment in the workplace, as is using insults. In severe cases, threats might be involved.

 

Physical Harassment 

Physical harassment might look like striking another person. That might be in the form of shoving, kicking or hitting. It might, alternatively, involve the destruction of another person’s property. Depending on the severity of the physical harassment, it could even be defined as physical assault. 

 

Harassment Online 

Workplace harassment doesn’t have to happen in the workplace itself. If employees or employers discuss fellow employees or employers online in a way that is malicious or intended to humiliate, this is online harassment. Sending harassing messages to the victim directly also constitutes online harassment. 

Additionally, it’s important to recognise what kind of harassment is happening beyond the form it takes. Workplace harassment can be discriminatory, sexual, power-related, or personal. 

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Sexual Harassment 

Sexual harassment is one of the most talked-about forms of harassment because it is so nefarious can have such a detrimental impact on the victim. 

It can take the form of inappropriate touching or inappropriate invasions of another person’s space. Sexual comments in the workplace also constitute sexual harassment, as do sexual gestures. If someone is sharing sexual photos of themselves or somebody else in the workplace, this is sexual harassment. 

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Bullying 

Bullying in the workplace is a kind of workplace harassment known as personal harassment

This type of harassment typically isn’t discriminatory in nature, but it revolves around one person’s general dislike for another. It might involve making jokes at another person’s expense, making nasty comments about another person, spreading malicious gossip or behaving in an intimidating manner.

 

Discrimination 

Discrimination in the workplace is a form of harassment. If somebody is treating someone else in the workplace differently and in a negative way because of certain factors, this can be considered discriminatory harassment. 

Discriminatory harassment might include treating someone poorly because of their gender identity, race or religion. 

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What to Do About Workplace Harassment As An Employee 

If you are an employee and you are being harassed in any of the above ways at your place of work, it is important that you report it as soon as possible. 

First, do your research and know your rights. Laws regarding workplace harassment and your employer’s legal obligations in this situation might be different depending on where you live. You need to know your rights so that you can be sure your case is being handled appropriately. 

Next, look at your employer’s anti-harassment policy. Every workplace should have one, and it should either be in your employee handbook or your workplace’s website. You can ask a supervisor or someone in HR to explain the policy to you. 

Once you know your workplace’s policy regarding harassment, you can file a complaint. This should not backfire on you because there are laws in place to protect you from retaliation by the harasser. If the form of harassment you are experiencing is illegal (such as sexual harassment, physical assault or discriminatory harassment, for instance), you may also wish to file a charge within a certain time period. 

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An Employer’s Obligations Regarding Workplace Harassment 

If you are an employer and you hear of a workplace harassment complaint, you must take this seriously. 

If the harassment being described is physical, sexual, or discriminatory in nature, it is your legal obligation to stop it. Even if the harassment is not strictly illegal, you have a moral obligation to step in and make sure that it does not continue and recur. 

First, you need to have a solid harassment policy in place and make sure that all employees you hire are informed about it upon employment. Make sure that all employees know that they can file a complaint about any harassment they experience without repercussions. 

Depending on the form of harassment, you may need to suspend or even part ways entirely with the perpetrator in order to protect other members of your workplace as well as your company’s reputation. To reach a conclusion regarding the best course of action, a thorough investigation will need to take place. 

If somebody in your workplace has been the victim of harassment, you should ensure that they have somebody to speak to about their experience and ask them what they need to feel comfortable and safe in the workplace moving forward. 

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Final Thoughts 

Workplace harassment is a difficult topic to navigate because it can involve sensitive issues, but it is important for employers and employees to be educated on the topic to keep everyone safe and comfortable at work. 

If you have been the victim of workplace harassment, you should refer to your company’s harassment policy and voice your complaint to either a supervisor or a member or HR. If you are an employer, you must have a harassment policy in place and treat harassment complaints with the seriousness they deserve. Beyond this, you should do whatever you can to protect your employees from harassment within the workplace.
 

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