A workplace is where we spend half a day each day for years. It is a melting pot for many different people; different in origin, color, culture, educational and social background. And there will be people who like us, and those who hold their prejudices against us. As long as those prejudices do not seep into out professional or personal lives, it does affect or matter. In an idealistic environment, we would all live in harmony, but we don't live in an ideal world with perfect workplace ethics, hence harassment in organizations is a harsh reality.
Workplace harassment is mostly defined as unwanted hostile behavior exhibited through physical, written or verbal conduct due to which the individual to whom this harassment has been targeted towards experiences anguish, and suffers mentally, emotionally, economically as well in some extreme cases even physically. Harassing or the inability to contain harassment is indicated as a form of employment discrimination. Harassment constitutes a wide number of conduct, including intimidation, hostility, offensive jokes, name calling, racial slurs, threats, mockery, insults, physical assaults, the use of offensive objects, etc.
Harassment has very little to do with the gender of the harasser, though in more cases women are targeted, but the incidences of men being harassed by their female bosses or co-workers too are on the rise. Hence, harassment can occur between seniors, juniors or colleagues irrespective of gender and age. Denying an individual basic rights, opportunities and benefits also amounts to harassment.
There are types of workplace harassment, some of them have been listed below:
- Racial Harassment: Any offensive remark or action against an employee based on race, color, sex, ethnic or national origin.
- Sexual Harassment: Any action that is used to target an individual with unwelcome sexual words, gestures, symbols or behavior falls under sexual harassment. Harassment due to an individual's sexual orientation too has been categorized under sexual harassment.
- Bulling or Stalking: Any form of verbal harassment done with the intention to undermine, humiliate, intimidate or demean an employee is known as bulling in the office.
- Disability Harassment: Here a disable employee is targeted with words or actions that are meant to discriminate and demoralize them.
There are ways to deal with harassment going on in the workplace. Report incidences to the grievances cell and seek action against the harasser. In the meanwhile collect evidence to build a watertight case for yourself. If one is not happy with the management handling of your harassment complain, then one can always look for legal recourse.
Harassment in workplace violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA). Hence, one is empowered to take on a wrongdoing. This law also prohibits the harasser against retaliation in any form against the complainant. This law automatically holds the employer liable for harassment by a senior. Harassment laws differ from state to state depending upon the nature and context of the conduct.
Sometimes prevention is the best way to ensure that these things do not happen. As an employer, one can clearly send out the message of non-tolerance towards any form of harassment, this in turn will encourage your employees to stand up and will be assured of an action while reporting against any form of harassment.