Workplace harassment is something people experience on a daily basis, but are too afraid to speak out about it… By law, harassment is described as any unwanted verbal or physical behaviour which are based on ideas such as colour, race, sex, religion, nationality, age, either physical or mental disabilities, and last but not least, gender identity. A harassing behaviour can take many forms which include: slurs, offensive jokes, intimidation, ridicule, insults, name calling, physical threats or assaults, offensive pictures and many more.
Many people encounter harassment even during interviews. It is important to know what rules apply to the employers and what they can and cannot ask you. Moreover, recruiters cannot ask you about your religion, race, marital status, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, age or sexual preferences. Next time you’re going into an interview, pay attention at what and how they ask about information regarding yourself.
Unfortunately, anyone can be in a situation where he or she is the harasser or the person being harassed. The harasser can range from being your boss, a co-worker, a supervisor from a different department, or even a non-employee, whilst the victim of the harassment doesn’t necessarily have to be the one directly harassed, but it can be any person in the office who feels affected by the harassing behaviour.
How to Deal with Harassment at the Workplace
Usually, people who are dealing with workplace harassment have the intention of solving the incident internally. The first option would be to approach the offender personally and explain how his behaviour and language have offended you. If you feel uncomfortable with the direct approach, the other option would be to contact your manager or supervisor and ask him to handle the situation before it develops into something more problematic.
Of course, there are cases in which the offender is your manager or supervisor and your only course of action is to contact the HR department or your manager’s boss and request an analysis of the situation.
Types of Harassment
There are numerous ways in which harassment takes place in the workplace. Unfortunately, sexual harassment continues to be one of the primary courses of harassment, although that does not mean that non-sexual harassment must be treated lightly. It is essential that people understand that harassment at the office can affect them, whether they are victims or not. One way or another it could impact people’s state of mind and even their careers.
As mentioned above, harassment can take many forms at the office. It could vary from being both physical and sexual and ending up with it being based on religion or race.
In the United States, the definition of harassment ranges from state to state. For example, in Florida a court decided that ‘fat jokes’ are offensive, while in Wisconsin and New York harassing people based on their criminal record is against the law. It is obvious that this issue represents a tricky subject everywhere around the world.
This type of harassment does not limit itself to just physical contact or words and just between co-workers of the opposite sex. All of the following examples classify as sexual harassment:
- Staring in a provocative manner, or whistling.
- Emails, letters or notes with provocative messages.
- Obscene videos and images shared with colleagues during a break or at lunch.
- Expose posters of inappropriate sexual imagery.
- Sharing sexual anecdotes or lewd jokes with the co-workers.
- Making offensive remarks about a person’s gender identity.
This type of harassment includes remarks ranging from a person’s physical appearance to his mental disabilities or cultural values. A co-worker can create a hostile work environment by continuously commenting that a person is too old, too stupid or too fat.
If you someone in the workplace is making either racist or negative comments regarding another person in the office is definitely harassment. In this category can also fall drawings, clothing or gestures that hurt or transform someone in a victim at the office. The following examples fall into the category of non-sexual harassment:
- Making jokes and negative remarks about a co-worker’s religious beliefs, or enforcing one’s own religious views on a person.
- Racist nicknames, slangs and phrases are all prohibited.
- ‘Distinguishing’ people at the office by the colour of their skin or ethnic characteristics.
- Talking about cultural or religious stereotypes in an offensive manner.
So, having read all this, next time you are a victim of sexual harassment or notice a colleague in this situation, you will know how to recognise it and take action.
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