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Preventing Workplace Harassment: What You Should Know

By its very definition, workplace harassment is an act or instance of disturbing, pestering or troubling repeatedly. These events are unwelcome in nature and can cause a significant amount of anxiety, especially if the harassment is taking place at work.

Every single member of the workforce should be able to work without the fear of being harassed at work. The government has adopted legislation, which is intended to protect workers, but putting an end to harassment starts with you.

All workers and managers should know their rights. Read up on changes to workplace harassment laws and know where you stand. Consult with your Human Resources (HR) Department if you have cause for concern or need to learn more. Read on to learn how to better recognize and report harassment in your workplace.

Common Types of Workplace Harassment

There are many forms of workplace harassment, below we have listed some of the most common types:

  • Sexual harassment is the most common form of harassment – It refers to persistent and unwanted sexual advances, typically in the workplace, where the consequences of refusing are potentially very disadvantageous to the victim.
  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment – this happens when a direct supervisor seeks sexual favors in return for something within the supervisor's powers, such as threatening to fire someone, or offering them a raise. Quid pro quo has been recognized as actionable for decades, but courts have only recognized hostile environment as an actionable behavior since the late 1980s as they made findings that the loss of employment or constructive dismissal has been caused by such behavior.
  • Religious harassment – Verbal, psychological or physical harassment is used against targets because they choose to practice a specific religion. Religious harassment can also include forced and involuntary conversions.
  • Social Media Harassment - occurs when an employee is harassed by a coworker via social media.
  • Workplace Bullying – Occurs when an individuals or group to uses persistent aggressive or unreasonable behavior against a co-worker or subordinate.
  • Racial harassment – this happens with the targeting of an individual because of their race or ethnicity. The harassment may include words, deeds, and actions that are specifically designed to make the target feel degraded due to their race or ethnicity.
  • Workplace aggression - is a specific type of aggression, which occurs in the workplace. Workplace aggression can include a wide range of behaviors, ranging from verbal acts (e.g., spreading rumors) to physical attacks (e.g., assault).

Collection of Evidence

If you suspect that a colleague is being harassed, or if you yourself are being harassed, you need to report the problem as soon as possible. First, gather evidence. Emails, voicemails, witness reports, anything you can get your hands on to take to your supervisor. Of course, if the problem is with your supervisor you will have to take the complaint to his superior or HR.

If you are giving copies of emails or transcripts of voicemails to another authority, make sure that you keep the originals for yourself.

Reporting A Problem

So, you’re ready to make a formal complaint for harassment in your workplace, good for you! This is one more step towards positive change. Take your evidence and witnesses in to your HR department or Manager and let them know what has been happening.

You should know that it is illegal for anyone (including HR) to pressure you into quitting your job as a result of your reporting workplace harassment. If you find that after you report harassment that your scheduled working hours have been reduced or that your supervisor or HR representative has suddenly created a very hostile work environment for you, contact your local branch of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission immediately.

Remember, you have the right to work in a safe environment, free of all type of harassment.

Please Note: This article was written for informational purposes only. It is not the intent of author to render legal advice. If legal advice is required, you should seek the services of a competent lawyer.

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Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace HR Package

Preventing Sexual Harassment HR Training Package

Business Training Media's three-part series on sexual harassment was created specifically to assist employers in training their managers and employees to recognize, avoid, investigate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

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