Preventing Harassment in the Workplace

Harassment is an issue that can affect any workplace. Recognizing harassing behavior is an important first step in dealing with it. Harassment, as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful when:

  1. Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment; or
  2. The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Harassing Behavior

Harassing behavior may include any of the following:

  • Verbal slurs; negative stereotyping; or threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts that relate to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability.
  • Written or graphic material that shows hostility toward an individual or group because of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability and that is displayed on walls, bulletin boards, or other locations circulated in the workplace.

When Harassment Occurs

When harassment occurs, take the following actions:

  • Know your employer’s policy on harassment and the reporting hierarchy for when it occurs.
  • Notify your supervisor, or Human Resources department immediately.
  • Demand that the harassment stops; hold the harasser accountable for his or her behaviors.
  • If the harassment is ongoing, keep a log of when the harassment occurs. Be factual, and include dates, times, names of witnesses, and description of the harassment.

Harassment is a difficult experience for anyone, and it is not something that needs to be handled alone. Always notify your supervisor or human resources department if you are the victim of harassment, or if you witness harassment in the workplace.

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