Harassment in the workplace isn’t always easy to define. It can take a lot of different shapes, making victims of this type of harassment uncomfortable, but unsure as to whether what they are feeling qualifies as harassment or is something they are overreacting about. Because of this, a lot of workplace harassment is not even reported. Still, even with these unreported instances, the numbers are staggering: one in four people will be harassed at work at some time in their life.
This type of tension and stress at work creates a toxic environment for the victim and innocent bystanders. It takes someone’s livelihood, and sometimes even their dream job, and turns it into a nightmare in which they have to choose between their sanity and self-respect and a paycheck.
Although the recent “Me Too” movement brought workplace sexual harassment into the spotlight, making employers step up and revamp their outdated harassment policies, harassment in the workplace is not always sexual. It can consist of things like bullying, intimidating, or threatening behaviors that can be explicit or implicit.
Victims of workplace harassment need to be able to recognize what it looks like and know how to handle it through the proper procedures. They also need to be aware of their rights in case going through the so-called correct channels does not get the results necessary to stop the harassment.
Here are the facts on workplace harassment and why you should never feel alone if you are going through it yourself.
The Harsh Facts on Workplace Harassment – It’s a Global Epidemic
Although we in the United States tend to associate victimization of harassment in the workplace with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the truth is that it is not isolated just to our country. This harassment happens all over the world, and different countries have different policies, procedures, and laws about how to handle this discrimination.
Because it is so globalized and widespread, it’s impossible for people to continue to ignore the problem. The Me Too movement went viral specifically because so many people around the world identiied with sexual harassment, and in the UK alone over 52% of women say they were harassed at work.
But in the United States, cultural norms make admitting to workplace harassment, or even knowing that the actions you are experiencing are actually harassment, a difficult thing. The U.S. is a virtual melting pot of unique cultures, ethnicities, races, and religions, making it hard to define a “norm” in some places.
Instead of this being a good thing where everyone fits in, it makes so many people feel that they stand out in an uncomfortable way. People are ashamed of being victimized and prefer to deal with the harassment or quit their jobs rather than approach the harasser and stand up for themselves.
The reason behind this is discouraging: Out of the average of one in five people who report workplace harassment, 80% say nothing changed after their report was made. The majority of the rest say that their situation actually worsened through retaliation.
This has to change, and the more people turn to attorneys who care, like Hershey Law, to help them stand up for their rights, the more we can change those statistics around.
What Does Workplace Harassment Look Like?
Workplace harassment is any type of discrimination on the job. It violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a plethora of other state and federal regulations.
This harassment is taken very seriously by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and, if you are a victim of it and follow the proper protocols, it can turn into a lawsuit. Don’t be afraid to work with an attorney to fight to protect your rights to not be discriminated against and to have security and stability in your environment at work.
Harassment on the job is most commonly thought of as sexual in nature, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are multiple types of discrimination and other forms of harassment that make a work environment turn hostile, toxic, and fearful.
Discrimination alone can be experienced in many forms, such as:
- Racial harassment in which a person is harassed because of their race, the color of their skin, their ancestry, or citizenship. This is commonly seen in the form of racial insults, jokes, and slurs, degrading comments, or intolerance.
- Gender harassment in which a person’s gender causes another person to treat them inferiorly. This often has a basis in negative gender stereotypes about how people of a certain gender are supposed to act.
- Religious harassment in which someone’s religious beliefs are different from the cultural norm of the company. This manifests in the form of intolerance towards the other person’s religious holidays, customs, and traditions. Often, the victim is pressured to convert to the “normal” religion and is the target of harsh jokes or degrading comments.
- Harassment due to disabilities occurs when someone who has a disability or knows someone with a disability is teased or accommodations are not made for them. This also pertains to a person who uses their sick leave and is harassed for that.
- Harassment due to sexual orientation used to be an unfortunately accepted practice but is now illegal. People of differing sexual orientations are to be free from harassment of their differences.
- Age-based harassment is becoming more common as technology often edges out older generations who did not grow up with it but is required for most jobs. Because of a person’s age and the associated stereotypes, it is often assumed that people of a certain age can’t do the work necessary. This harassment is illegal.
There are other kinds of harassment as well. Personal harassment happens in the workplace when someone makes inappropriate comments to a person or attempts to humiliate them. It also happens when someone is overly critical or tries to intimidate the victim, creating a hostile work environment.
There is also something called power harassment, in which the person with authority over the victim attempts to intimidate them, demean them, or makes demands that are not possible. Power harassment can be psychological or physical.
Physical harassment is its own category, though. It is called workplace violence and it involves any harassing behaviors that contain physical threats or outright attacks. It can also be considered assault if the behavior is extreme enough. Behaviors may include direct threats, hitting or shoving, or destruction of property, for example.
Workplace harassment doesn’t end here, however. If you feel that you have been a victim of any type of workplace harassment in California and it has not stopped after you addressed the issue, call Hershey Law today.
Retaliation and the Results
Many people are afraid to report workplace harassment due to the fear of retaliation, and this is a justified reaction. However, retaliation is in itself a form of harassment and you are protected from it and the results of it as well.
Retaliation harassment happens when someone wants to get revenge on someone who “tattles” on bad behavior to keep them from doing it again. It can happen employee to employee or authority figure to employee.
In most cases, retaliation happens when an employee made a legally protected complaint and the employer wishes to punish them for it. It can include anything from demoting the employee to firing them, or it can be a subtle action, such as a job change to a less advantageous position. Any adverse action that would inhibit someone from making a complaint is illegal retaliation and is prohibited by federal law.
The EEOC can be called to investigate any time a claim of discrimination or harassment is made. If the EEOC finds the claim to be valid, they can either pursue a lawsuit themselves or release the claim to further legal action, at which time you are free to call an attorney and file the suit yourself.
In fact, in 2017 there were 32,023 investigated reports of workplace retaliation alone by the EEOC, and 84,253 total charges of on the job harassment. You are not alone, and you have the right to a safe, comfortable workplace.
The Steps to Take Before You File a Workplace Harassment Lawsuit
If you are a victim of workplace harassment, be sure you talk to a supervisor or someone in your human resources to make an official written report. This report will be required by the EEOC if they do get involved.
Once you file the complaint, your employer should take steps to ensure the harassment stops. If it continues or gets worse, you can call or meet with someone from the EEOC to see what your next steps are. There is a time limit for filing a charge, so don’t sit around and wait too long, but be sure you follow the policies and procedures in your company.
However, during this time, you may feel the need for guidance and validation along the way. We at Hershey Law are here for you and we care about your rights. It’s time to take a stand against workplace harassment and turn the statistics around. You can defend your rights and protect others from the same harassment by calling Hershey Law for your free consultation today.