HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE: Effective Ways How to Find Out and Deal With It

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Harassment in the workplace occurs in all sectors and sizes of businesses across the United States. Understanding the different types of workplace harassment, from bullying to outright discrimination, can help you create a safe and welcoming workplace for your employees. Making a policy against harassment in the workplace demonstrates your commitment to providing a hostile-free environment for your staff. Physical and sexual kinds of harassment are more extreme than the more common verbal and psychological ones. Sexual, verbal, and physical harassment in the workplace is all illegal. If an employer does not take appropriate action against harassment, it may be held liable for the effects on workers’ productivity, morale, and safety on the job. Let’s take a look at harassment in the workplace examples, attorneys to go to when you are harassed, and things to avoid when facing workplace harassment.

What is Harassment in the Workplace?

Harassment at work happens when one or more coworkers make one or more workers feel scared or made fun of. Also, harassment at work serves no function other than to make its targets feel threatened and uneasy.

However, harassment in the workplace goes by many labels, including bullying, mobbing, violence, and others.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to, a wide range of forms of exclusion and overt displays of power and control over a targeted group. Harassment happens when one or more groups are specifically targeted, and this can include women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, persons with disabilities, and newcomers to the country. Because of the difficulty in providing a single, comprehensive definition of workplace harassment, it is essential that we adopt a more pluralistic approach.

Understanding Workplace Harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name-calling; physical attacks or threats; intimidation; ridicule or mockery; insults or put-downs; offensive objects or photographs; and interference with work performance.”

Many different situations can lead to harassment, including the following examples.

  • Harassment that violates the law does not necessarily result in the victim suffering a financial loss or losing their job.
  • The victim’s supervisor, another supervisor, a company agent, a coworker, or an outsider can harass them.
  • Anyone who experiences fear or offense as a result of the harasser’s actions can be considered a victim of harassment.

Furthermore, the Executive search specialist at Find Great People, Becca Garvin, stressed the need to first recognize the signs of workplace harassment. Harassment in the workplace is a complicated problem with a lot of ambiguity around it. It is your responsibility to report any suspicious activity or harassment you encounter at work. Remember that you have legal protections against retribution at work if you are concerned about losing your job.

To paraphrase what Garvin said, “Not only are you protected [by law] from the person harassing you, [but you are also protected] from your employer failing to protect you,” Garvin said. If you are a victim of or witness to harassment at work, you are protected from retaliation for reporting it.

The existence of physical evidence of workplace harassment is not always present. Knowing the situation’s context before approaching human resources is crucial.

Types of workplace Harassment

In spite of the lack of hard proof for the existence of workplace harassment, we cannot ignore its existence. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), inappropriate jokes, bullying, slurs, epithets, physical attacks, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive objects or photos, and interference with work performance all qualify as forms of harassment.

Any kind of harassment is not okay at work, including verbal, physical, sexual, favoritism, psychological, emotional, and so on. The five most common types and examples of workplace harassment are as follows:

  • Physical harassment
  • Psychological harassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Verbal harassment
  • Cyberbullying

Let’s take a closer look at each of these types of workplace harassment so you can learn to recognize them.

#1. Physical Harassment

There are many different levels of physical harassment behavior in the workplace. The inappropriate touching of clothing or flesh, physical assaults, threats, or damage to personal property are all examples of this type of harassment.

At their places of employment, individuals who belong to gender minorities and LGBTQIA+ populations are more likely to experience harassment of this kind. Offenders can play down some forms of harassment by making them into jokes, which does not cause any bodily injury; when this occurs, it becomes difficult to distinguish between forms of physical harassment.

Cases of physical harassment can be proven even if no serious harm was done to the victim. If a situation turns violent, workers must report it and punish the perpetrators.

#2. Psychological Harassment

In contrast to explicit verbal abuse, the exclusionary methods of psychological harassment, such as withholding facts or gaslighting, are more difficult to spot. According to Chancey, the goal of such activities is to make the victim feel worthless and devalued.

Behaviors like “taking credit for someone else’s achievement,” “making impossible demands,” “imposing unreasonable deadlines” on a specific employee, “constantly requiring an employee to perform demeaning tasks that are outside of their job scope,” and “persistently opposing everything someone says” can be “a form of deliberate psychological bullying,” he said.

#3. Sexual Harassment

The crime of sexual harassment in the workplace is serious and more widespread than you might believe. It’s not only a female problem; anyone can be upset by this. Also, sexual harassment can affect people of both sexes equally.

ZipRecruiter found that 40% of women and 14% of males have been victims of sexual harassment on the job.

Sexual harassment can take many forms, including unwanted physical contact, the sending of sexually explicit messages or recordings, requests for sexual favors, and comments that include sexually suggestive gestures.

Offenders frequently get away with their actions because they are rarely seen or reported. Many survivors keep quiet about their experiences because they hope things will improve if they do, but in reality, they just become worse. One must, however, file a report if the sex offender in question is making them feel unsafe.

#4. Verbal Harassment

When someone constantly attacks you verbally, it can be emotionally draining and detrimental to your professional and physical well-being. Insulting words, rude actions, and excessive nitpicking all fall under this category. It can take the form of jokes, comments, and slurs that aren’t welcomed or appreciated.

Being a kind of nonphysical aggression, verbal harassment can be hard to identify and frequently falls into a gray area.

Despite the fact that it can have a negative psychological impact on the victim and result in outcomes such as depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety, “often yelling, cursing, or making inappropriate remarks or jokes about a co-worker is seen as a case of personality conflict and not as harassment.

#5. Cyberbullying

Online harassment, often known as cyberbullying, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Cyberbullying is just as offensive as traditional forms of harassment because of its virtual nature.

Today, no business can function without at least some employee involvement with social media. So, under the protection of the right to free expression, it is acceptable for anyone to engage in online harassment of another. Individuals sometimes create alter egos to insult and intimidate coworkers.

The good news is that victims of cyberbullying can keep records of their experiences. A victim of cyberbullying or discrimination might keep track of each event by taking screenshots, saving emails, etc. In addition, this makes it simple for harassed workers to file complaints.

Harassment in the Workplace Examples 

Even though Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, millions of American workers are still harassed at work. Harassment of any kind is unacceptable in the workplace, and this includes harassment based on a person’s gender, color, handicap, or religious or ideological convictions. Knowing the most frequent workplace harassment categories may help small business owners avoid legal issues.

It’s possible that business owners are unaware of the potential benefits of addressing and eliminating harassment in the workplace. Staff retention may be improved, and morale can be raised, by creating an environment where workers feel safe and valued.

Defining the nature of harassment as a starting point for intervention. Several examples of workplace harassment that have been documented are as follows.

#1. Harassment Because of One’s Religious Convictions

Hiscox found that religious or ideological harassment was the most common form of workplace harassment. Coworkers’ unpleasant discussions or comments concerning victims’ religion accounted for around 15% of all reported instances of harassment.

This sort of harassment is more common among those who publicly proclaim their ideas. Employees of a nonreligious persuasion, on the other hand, may run into resistance from coworkers or managers who hold divergent religious views. Harassment can also involve trying to change someone’s thinking about their religion or philosophy through argument or other means.

It’s not against the law to make a joke or remark about someone’s faith, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Harassment arises when teasing makes the workplace uncomfortable or when the target is intimidated into silence. Of course, it’s still upsetting when others make jokes about your religion or your personal views, and it can help foster an atmosphere where other forms of harassment can flourish.

#2. Workplace Age Discrimination

Employers benefit from having older workers, according to studies. Yet, elderly people are not always shown the dignity they need.

Almost half (44%) of the 400 workers surveyed in Hiscox’s 2019 Ageism in the Workplace study indicated they or someone they knew had encountered age discrimination on the job.

More than 20% of workers over 62 were degraded by their superiors and coworkers, according to a study out of the University of Maine. More than a quarter of those surveyed felt their opinions and ideas weren’t taken into account at work. Several respondents reported that their coworkers made jokes about their age.

When the age distribution of the workforce changes, it is important for workers and supervisors to understand the bias that older workers often experience. In a multigenerational firm, harassment can be prevented by including older workers, preventing isolation, and actively considering their viewpoints.

#3. Racial Harassment

Discrimination and harassment based on race persist in the American workplace. About 20% of harassed workers in the Hiscox study reported being subjected to unwanted comments or humiliating behavior because of their race, color, or national origin. Based on the available data, racial harassment is particularly prevalent among younger workers and members of minority groups.

In many cases, victims of this type of harassment are subjected to recurrent abuse that increases in frequency and intensity over time. Employees, managers, clients, and patients are all potential sources of harassment.

Harassment in the workplace can take the form of offensive jokes, racial slurs, personal insults, and comments that show dislike or intolerance for a certain race. Harassment can range from remarks about an employee’s accent to threats and hate symbols. As a first step in combating racial harassment, training employees to recognize and avoid unconscious bias could be useful.

#4. Intimidation

Bullying can happen when a boss constantly talks down to or insults a subordinate or does so physically. Threatening or intimidating an employee is psychological harassment that destroys the victim’s dignity and well-being at work. Psychological harassment can also happen when a boss takes credit for an employee’s work, gives the employee humiliating tasks that aren’t part of their job description, or gives them impossible deadlines to meet.

How Does HR Handle Harassment?

We expect to be able to conduct our jobs without being bothered or harassed while at work. To be sure, not everyone has access to such a luxury. It is normal practice to speak with a human resources professional when facing harassment in the workplace. In that case, how do human resources deal with harassment complaints?

Human resources must establish clear policies, provide adequate training for employees, and handle any harassment complaints in a timely manner if this problem is to never arise again. Not doing so may lead to further complications (like reputational damage or expensive lawsuits).

Preventing problems from occurring and making the office pleasant are your best bets. Luckily, some research has you covered with an in-depth look at the various forms of harassment complaints HR must deal with, guidance on how to appropriately set expectations, and examples of HR’s responses to complaints. Here are tips on how HR should handle harassment.

#1. Encourage a Respectful Environment

A robust code of corporate ethics is the first and most important thing that a firm should have in place. During the onboarding process, HR should make it abundantly obvious that valuing people is a fundamental principle that everyone ought to possess. As it gives value, HR should reintroduce it even though most people know it’s morally wrong.

#2. Create a Forum for Open and Honest Discourse

In the sad event that any employee needs to report harassment in the workplace, the organization should give them all the impression that they will listen to them without prejudice. From the beginning, there should be many channels for reporting harassment in the workplace, allowing victims to get in touch with HR specialists to lodge their complaints. This may also help the sufferer feel less compelled to respond with additional animosity.

#3. Set a Standard of Absolutely No Tolerance for Harassment

Inform your staff members in no uncertain terms that you will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. The written regulations against harassment should clearly define the reasons for harassment, how victims can make a report, and what the punishments are for those who are proven guilty if they are found to be harassing others.

#4. Ensure That All Staff, Regardless of Rank, Receive Extensive Training

One of the most effective ways to prevent harassment in the workplace is through training. Create training sessions tailored to this concern with the help of a human resources expert.

Training should be tailored to the specific needs of each employee subset (from entry-level workers to upper management) and should emphasize the skills and knowledge they will need to do their jobs. This is a perfect time to explain your company’s stance on harassment and provide out copies of your policy.

In order to better avoid harassment, you can provide training on both sexual harassment and discriminatory action to employers and employees.

Harassment in the Workplace Attorneys

While it is against the law to engage in harassment or retaliation against an employee in the workplace, doing so is not always a simple or straightforward process. Whether you want to win an award or receive your day in court, you need the greatest attorneys to defend your harassment in the workplace.

In and out of the courtroom, attorneys are among the most influential figures in the fight against workplace harassment across the country. They have a history of success on behalf of our clients and a firm dedication to vigorously defending their interests. We’ve helped clients from all walks of life who were victims of discrimination and retaliation, from being passed over for a promotion to being physically attacked. We have earned a reputation for being formidable adversaries in mediation and settlement talks, and we are also highly regarded as trial attorneys for cases that must be tried by a jury.

Furthermore, attorneys are aware that harassment, discrimination, and retribution in the workplace may have a profound impact on both your career and personal life. Their goal is to help our clients get their lives back on track by resolving their legal issues to their satisfaction so that they may move on with their lives and professions.

What To Do If You Are Being Harassed

Harassment in the workplace is illegal. Ask the harasser to stop if you or someone you know is experiencing workplace harassment. It’s possible that the offending party is unaware of your feelings of hurt. Contact your company’s human resources department immediately if the harassment continues.

Taking legal action against a harasser is a good idea if you’ve already told human resources about the problem and they haven’t stopped. Hiring an attorney you have faith in and who you believe will aggressively represent your interests is crucial. York Law Group has lawyers that are well-versed in representing victims of workplace harassment. They take great pride in providing each of our clients with the best possible counsel in court and will work tirelessly to see that you are given the fair treatment you deserve. Also, read HARASSMENT CHARGES: How to Press Harassment Charges.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace 

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take various forms. Harassment in the workplace can come in many forms, including unwanted physical contact, offensive comments or jokes, and the promise of a promotion in exchange for sexual favors from coworkers, supervisors, or customers and clients.

Harassment of any kind is unacceptable, not just the sexual kind. Bullying can also take the form of making jokes about, threatening someone, or saying hurtful things about someone’s sex, gender identity (man, woman, trans, intersex, nonbinary), or sexual orientation (queer, straight, bisexual, lesbian, gay, asexual, pansexual, two-spirit, etc.) Harassment of any kind is unacceptable, but sometimes it involves more than just sex, such as race or ethnicity.

Furthermore, it’s possible, for instance, that a woman of color would have a very different experience of sexual harassment at work than a white woman would have. Due to the fact that she is a woman of a certain race or ethnicity, she may be the focus of abuse or hostility. Sexual Harassment can take many forms, but here are some examples:

  1. Inappropriately soliciting sexual favors or dates
  2. Negatively commenting on someone else’s physical appearance
  3. Insulting or making fun of someone because they are a woman or gay because they are both women or gay
  4. Sexually explicit communication sharing, transmission, or exchange
  5. Hugging, kissing, or assaulting someone inappropriately involves physically contacting them in some way, whether it is on the face or body
  6. Sexually suggestive behavior such as staring, leering, or making gestures
  7. Hindering someone’s ability to move.

Understanding Sexual Harassment at Workplace

The perception of the assaulted individual is what determines whether or not a certain act constitutes sexual harassment; the perpetrator’s perspective on the appropriateness of his or her actions (whether or not they are sexual) is irrelevant. Whether or not you report the behavior, if it is inappropriate or offensive, it is still harassment.

Even if you don’t immediately say “stop” or something else to let the individual know that what they’re saying or doing is unacceptable, it still counts as harassment because you should have done so. Whether it’s because you’re caught off guard at the moment or you’re afraid of the other person’s reaction if you don’t go along with their behavior, it’s easy to find yourself laughing along with an insensitive joke or accepting a hug even though you feel them to be inappropriate. 

You can be reluctant to stand up to a harasser or say “no” if you fear the consequences of your employment. This is especially true if the harasser is your boss or someone else in a position of authority over you. As you can see, all of them are typical reactions to harassment. In addition, this kind of reaction does not make the harassment any less serious or make you more accountable.

What to Avoid When Facing Workplace Harassment

A few actions should be avoided while dealing with workplace harassment. These mistakes may put you in harm’s way or further inflame the situation.

#1. Avoid Complaining with Other Employees

Your coworkers can’t do much to help, and if they’re summoned to testify, they’ll likely water down your version of events. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that everyone in the office is connected to one another in different ways. Because you can never tell how someone will react to bad comments about the perpetrator, you risk confusing the situation by doing so (even if it is warranted).

#2. Do Not Remain Silent

You should always report any sort of harassment, and it should be dealt with appropriately when it has been reported. The actions of the offender will not stop even if you choose to remain silent about it. Every instance of harassment ought to be reported, and the validity of every allegation ought to be meticulously looked into.

#3. Be Calm and Avoid Taking Revenge

An act of retaliation might inflame the situation and make things worse. Instead, follow the appropriate channels for escalation, and let human resources manage the fallout.


Management must treat workplace harassment as seriously as they would any other form of discrimination, such as harassment based on gender, age, sexual orientation, race, etc. Companies must make it clear to workers that harassment has zero tolerance and can result in disciplinary action. All managers, foremen, and workers need to undergo intensive training.

Customers should have more than one way to get in touch with a company if they are unhappy with it. Employees and machinery alike need to keep an eye on things at the office. Appropriate human resource services are essential to the safety of the organization’s members. More of the company’s ethical and cultural upkeep should fall within the purview of human resources (HR), and the corporation should outsource its HR services to a competent and trustworthy organization.


What Are 3 Actions to Take if You are Experiencing Workplace Harassment?

  • Confront It
  • Compile Your Evidence
  • Report It

Why Is Reporting Workplace Harassment Important

Harassment has negative effects on workplaces including decreased productivity, low morale, and even legal repercussions. So it is important to report any case immediately 

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