Prohibited workplace harassment usually comes in two basic forms. One way is by a supervisor, co-worker, or third party hired by a company who makes employment or job decisions based on an employee’s submission or rejection of unwelcome acts, typically of a sexual nature. It’s an offensive conduct against one or more protected groups. Protected groups may include women, older employees, sexual orientation, etc. The acts by the employer are severe or pervasive and thereby creates a hostile or offensive work environment. Being fired or demoted may be an example of those acts.
What should someone do when they fell they are being harassed at the workplace? Report it. Most companies have a policy for reporting violations inside the company. Those that don’t are usually still open to an employee going to a boss or another supervisor or human resources in the company to discuss the violations. What isn’t legal is that the human resources department send you back to your boss who is the one committing the harassment against you. Human resources should investigate the claim of workplace harassment and call in all employees who knew of the workplace harassment. This just gives agencies and courts a clear understanding of the company’s desire to comply with federal laws prohibiting workplace harassment.
Two basic types of unlawful harassment
Quid Pro Quo Harassment – “This for That”
Quid pro quo harassment is one where an employee receives something for participating in the acts that the boss wants, usually a sexual act. The boss normally can make decisions over the employee’s termination, denial or promotion, and other things which affect the employee victim.
Usually this can be seen when a supervisor fires or denies promotion to a subordinate for refusing to be sexually cooperative, or he/she offers an employee preferential treatment/promotion if subordinate sexually cooperates.
If you noticed, we didn’t limit our explanation of workplace harassment to the word “he”. That’s because in workplace harassment the violation can come from women against men, men against women, or same sex workplace harassment such as man on man. There is no gender for workplace harassment, it can come from all genders.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment
This happens when unwelcome conduct renders the workplace atmosphere intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
Examples of behaviors that may contribute to an unlawful hostile environment include:
- discussing sexual activities;
- telling off-color jokes concerning race, sex, disability, or other protected bases;
- unnecessary touching;
- commenting on physical attributes;
- displaying sexually suggestive or racially insensitive pictures;
- using demeaning or inappropriate terms or epithets;
- using indecent gestures;
- using crude language;
- sabotaging the victim’s work;
- engaging in hostile physical conduct.
When harassing conduct violates the law*
First, unlawful harassing conduct must be unwelcome and based on the victim’s status as one of the protected classes such as gender.
Second, the conduct must be subjectively abusive to the person affected; and objectively severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive.
While the instance of hostile work environments or workplace harassment must take into considerationthe following factors:
- the frequency of the unwelcome discriminatory conduct;
- the severity of the conduct;
- whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance;
- whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with work performance;
- the effect on the employee’s psychological well-being; and
- whether the harasser was a superior within the organization.
Lets take a moment to note that determining whether there was workplace harassment is a case by case determination, and not everything counts. For example, one off comments against females or race is not a true claim for workplace harassment or any form of racism.
If you feel that you have been a victim of workplace harassment, then give us a call at (786) 454-2411. The consultation is free, and in most cases, our work is based on contingency, meaning it comes from your recovery for the abuse in your workplace.