Workplace harassment is not a new topic. But the news about people in powerful positions harassing their co-workers and subordinates have made many people take a second look at harassment in the workplace. More than ever, if we want to create healthy work environments where people are excited to come to work and do their best, it is important that it is important that both employees and employers pay attention not only to what constitutes harassment, but how to stop workplace harassment.
While many workplaces have some training for employees on the topic of harassment, most of the time, the training is not monitored, very few people take the training or it is not offered at all. This not not good for anyone.
And this is why an emphasis on creating effective anti-harassment training curriculums is necessary.
As an employer, it will save you and your company millions of dollars and you will have employees who feel safe. This will lead to increased productivity. As an employee, your job and livelihood depends on being aware of what constitutes harassment and how you can avoid becoming the harasser.
And for everyone, it is important to know this information so you can accurately identify it and take action against it.
What is harassment?
Harassment is any unwelcome behavior that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Workplace harassment escalates to an unlawful status when:
- A person is forced to endure the offense as a condition to remain employed
- The harassment is severe enough to create an unreasonable work environment and turns into a situation where an otherwise reasonable person feels the work environment is hostile, intimidating or abusive.
How can you spot workplace harassment?
Examples of harassment include:
- Offensive jokes
- Name calling
- Physical assaults
- Offensive imagery
- Sexually suggestive pictures and objects
- Racially insensitive pictures or objects
- Interference with work
- Unwelcome sexual advances
Although this list is not exhaustive, any actions that are repeatedly carried out and which interfere with another person’s work or makes a reasonable person feel intimidated is considered an example of harassment.
If the victim can prove the harassment and the negative effect it has caused them, they have legal grounds to sue.
What you can do to stop workplace harassment
Prevention is the best way to stop workplace harassment. The first line of defense is to provide training to everyone who is employed at your company. Secondly, as an employer, if any employee reports that they are being harassed by a co-worker or a superior, it is your responsibility to fully investigate the issue.
There needs to be clear communication with the harasser that their behavior will not be tolerated in your work environment. As a fellow co-worker, if you notice another worker harassing someone, speak up and defend the person who is being harassed.
The sooner harassment is nipped in the bud and shown to be unwelcome in the workplace, the easier it becomes to eliminate it all together. Under the law, it is illegal for you to be punished in any way by your workplace for taking action against or reporting any harassment you may have observed.
Thus if you are an employer, you are bound by the law to report any repeated behaviors that make your employees feel unsafe at work. If you are a witness, you need to report it to a manager or whichever department handles harassment complaints in your workplace.
If you are the victim, it is your right to let somebody know what you’re going through. One of the biggest obstacles that stands in the way of people reporting workplace harassment, is the fear that they will lose their job. Many victims, especially of sexual harassment, have also reported feeling shame when they have come out and been honest about an incident.
If you are the victim, it might be best for you to speak with a mental health professional who will be able to help you navigate those feelings so that you can finally share what has happened to you.
In a lot of cases, you are not the harasser’s only victim. Thus sharing your story will save many others from the pain of being harassed and made to live in fear.