Conduct by anyone in the workplace that falls under harassment should never be acceptable. There are two basic types of unlawful harassment. The first is generally committed by someone who can intervene in employment decisions, such as promotion or termination. The second falls under the umbrella of a hostile work environment. It is important you understand how to recognize each and the repercussions in the workplace.
Quid Pro Quo
This is a Latin expression which means “this for that.” It is an exchange, often based on sexual favors. For instance, a person harassing an employee may offer something of value, such as a promotion in exchange for a sexual favor. This type of harassment may also be used as a form of blackmail. In other words, the employee is asked to perform sexual favors in exchange for past indiscretions is not revealed.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment
The types of harassing behavior that fall under this umbrella may also involve sexual favors. However, more frequently they involve conduct that makes it difficult to work in the environment. For instance, sexual harassment may take on the form of unwanted touching or discussion of sexual activities. Other harassing behavior that makes the workplace environment hostile include:
- Using crude language
- Using indecent gestures
- Engaging in physical contact, including fighting
- Demeaning or inappropriate terms
- Telling inappropriate jokes concerning race, sex, disability or other protected Avenues
- Unnecessary touching
- Showing sexually suggestive or racially insensitive pictures
- Threatening, yelling, insulting or cursing
Each of these types of harassment can also fall under other categories, such as discrimination or personal harassment. For example, a bully in the office may use racial, gender or religious comments to undermine your ability to perform. An individual may face age-based harassment in which they are teased, insulted or unfairly criticized because of their age.
Physical harassment is also called workplace violence and in extreme cases may be classified as assault. Some examples may include a direct threat or threatening behavior. A bully may go as far as destroying property to intimidate you.
Another example of workplace harassment is cyberbullying or online harassment. In this case, a bully may share humiliating things through mass email or spread lies and gossip through social media.
Don’t Ignore Harassment
For many years, women were expected to put up with advances at work, ignore unwanted attention or overlook sexist, racist and gender-based jokes. It’s important to remember that harassment is more than a negative co-worker – it is offensive and demeaning. Thankfully, today these behaviors are not acceptable and may be cause for legal action.
It’s important to recognize what’s happening and report it to the human resources department. Don’t ignore it because it won’t go away. In fact, by ignoring it you are inadvertently telling the bully you don’t mind the behavior and they can continue. Avoid talking to your co-workers as this adds fuel to the fire and may water down your version if the incident comes to court.
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