A productive workplace is one where everyone feels safe. If you are being harassed at your job, that makes it anything but productive or comfortable. You do have a right not to be harassed at work; whether someone is being physically inappropriate or making verbally inappropriate comments about someone’s sex, race or religion, it is not okay or legal. If someone is making those types of comments, then that is also a form of discrimination, which is also illegal.

What is the definition of workplace harassment?

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, workplace harassment is a type of discrimination that goes against federal regulations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines “harassment” as physical or verbal behavior that relates to gender, color, race, religion, pregnancy, gender identity, age, nationality and any other genetic or mental information.

Harassment is technically considered illegal when the behavior becomes a prerequisite of the employee’s continued employment with the company, or the conduct is either pervasive or severe enough that any reasonable person would find it threatening, intimidating, abusive, or hostile. If the employer’s or supervisor’s use of harassment relates an employer’s job status or salary, then that would also be considered discrimination and workplace harassment.

Other types of workplace harassment

Some states make it illegal to either discriminate against or to prohibit from working based on whether or not they are a smoker. In states like Wisconsin and New York, it is illegal for anyone to discriminate against someone in the workplace based on them having been arrested or having any convictions on their record. In the District of Columbia it is illegal to discriminate due to someone’s marital status, family responsibilities, political affiliation, personal appearance, or matriculation.


What are the various components of workplace harassment?

There are various ways that one person can harass another in the workplace, and the boundaries are not always clear. Making offensive jokes, calling someone names, physically or verbally assaulting them, ridiculing them, posting or showing offensive pictures, racial slurs, and other types of inappropriate behaviors are all considered harassment.

Most people often think that workplace harassment relates only to sexual harassment. But in actuality there are a vast number of ways that someone can be harassed and made to feel coerced or uncomfortable at work. You can illegally be harassed by your boss, your supervisor, someone you work with – or even someone who doesn’t work for your company at all. In some instances, it doesn’t even have to be the victim who is being harassed. If the offensive behavior is harassing anyone, then it can be considered illegal workplace harassment.

States like Florida have made specific guidelines about what harassment entails; for example, “fat jokes” are discriminatory, and they violate the American Disabilities Act. Usually determined at the state level, knowing what the laws in your state is a good idea before you assume that you have to put up with being uncomfortable at work.


What to do if you think you have been harassed at work

The laws relating to workplace harassment are outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If anyone believes that their rights have been violated, then they can file a petition for workplace harassment with the agency. Ideally, before you file, it is a good idea to talk with your supervisor and make your feelings clear. There are many times when someone might not even know that they are being offensive. If you tell them that something is making you uncomfortable, then not only is it on record that you have put them on notice, but they also have an opportunity to change their behavior before a major disruption happens at the workplace.

If you are intimidated by reaching out to the supervisor directly, then try to talk with someone else in the company to alleviate the situation. Your human resources department should have a specific way to deal with workplace harassment issues, and can guide you through the process of filing a claim or getting the abuse to stop.

You do have a right to feel safe and comfortable at your work. If someone is impeding that right, then you may talk to a harassment protection lawyer for workplace to make it stop, or to ensure that the matter is handled correctly.


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