What Constitutes Workplace Harassment?

What Constitutes Workplace Harassment?

When you consider the innumerable others who are too afraid to speak up against their own abusers, every high-profile executive and high-ranking official who has been brought down by allegations of inappropriate behavior is a drop in the bucket. So, what exactly qualifies as workplace harassment? Furthermore, when is it appropriate to act?

According to a recent survey by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 75% of those who spoke out about workplace harassment were met with retaliation from the person to whom they reported the occurrence. With this statistic in mind, it's easy to see why so many cases of workplace harassment go unreported, and why it took something like the #MeToo movement so long to make a difference.

What Constitutes Workplace Harassment?

1. I'll Scratch Your Back if You Scratch Mine

According to the United States Department of Labor, there are a few lines that your employer should never cross. When your supervisor recommends a quid-pro-quo (or "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine") agreement in order to assist you professionally, this is one of these special scenarios. These agreements are considered workplace harassment and may be illegal if one of the following events occurs:

  • You're dismissed or denied because you refused to cooperate sexually with your supervisor.
  • If your manager forbids your staff from participating in religious activities, they will be dismissed.
  • If your boss treats other employees better if they agree to have a sexual relationship with them or participate in the religious activities that they impose on your workplace.

2. Hostile “GTFO” Work Environments

While some bosses strive to misuse their position in situations like the ones described above, others are simply slimy and illogical. However, if your supervisor treats you in a way that makes your skin crawl, it's likely that he or she is engaging in workplace harassment.

The following are some examples of this heinous behavior:

  • If your supervisor brags about or discusses his — or her — sexual activities in front of you, you should be concerned.
  • Making offensive and off-color jokes regarding race, sex, gender, or religion.
  • Grasping or touching.
  • Inferential remarks about your physical appearance.
  • Posting photographs of either disgusting sexual or religious imagery throughout the office.
  • Making you feel uncomfortable by using racial slurs or other degrading remarks.
  • If they utilize offensive words or gestures in the workplace on a regular basis.
  • If your manager deliberately undermine your work.
  • Last but not least, if they physically assault you.

When Does it Become Illegal?

In general, if any of these events occur at your employment, it is deemed criminal workplace harassment. If your boss does not exhibit this type of conduct on a regular basis, it may not annoy you as much. But, as the saying goes, give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

That is why it is critical to report abusive bosses for workplace harassment as soon as possible. Nobody wants to work in a backwards-thinking atmosphere. So, if you're harassed at work, make sure to report it straight away to human resources. You don't have a human resources department? Look to your boss's boss for guidance. Working for a chain (whether it's a store or a restaurant) and not sure how to approach your boss (especially if the abuser is your boss)? You can probably reach the head office by dialing a central (and generally anonymous) number.

Last updated: 2022-April-28

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