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5 Common Examples of Workplace Harassment

Published on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:36 am in Employment Law.

Man speaking to woman at a desk

When you’re dealing with mistreatment at work, whether it’s from a coworker or supervisor, you may be unsure if you have the right to take legal action. Often times, there’s a difference between what a person thinks is harassment, versus what the legal definition says. In order to bring some clarity to the situation, we’ll be discussing common examples of workplace harassment.

We’ll look at the general types of harassment, physical, mental, authoritative, discriminatory, and retaliation, and break those down into real-world examples, so you’ll be able to identify harassment if or when it happens in your workplace. No matter what type of harassment you’re dealing with, it’s crucial that the liable party be held accountable for their actions. You have the right to feel safe and comfortable, no matter where you work.

1) Types of Physical Harassment

Physical harassment is often referred to as workplace violence. It involves physical attacks or threats. In the event of an extreme attack, the incident could be classified as an assault. It’s important for companies to take physical harassment seriously. There should be policies in place to handle a matter of violence, should one occur.

It’s important to remember that physical harassment can look differently to different people. While some may view physical gestures like playful shoving as harmless, the person on the receiving end is the one who decides if the contact made them uncomfortable enough to be considered harassment. Examples of physical harassment include:

  • Physical attacks like hitting or kicking
  • Destroying property
  • Direct threats or threatening behavior

2) Harassment that Affects the Psyche

Often times emotional abuse at work is about power. A coworker or supervisor may belittle your thoughts or abilities in order to make them appear or feel superior. Emotional harassment and workplace bullying can do more than just hurt someone’s feelings. The effects of emotional abuse can result in depression, anxiety, and even PTSD. Examples of psychological harassment include:

  • Opposing everything the employee says
  • Isolating or denying a person’s presence
  • Belittling the victim’s thoughts or ideas
  • Stealing credit for work done
  • Misplaced blame for errors

3) Harassment Tactics from Management  

Power harassment happens when a person with more power in a workplace setting abuses that by bullying a victim who is lower on the office hierarchy. A supervisor could harass an employee underneath them in order to get out of doing a certain task they don’t want to do. Or the boss of a company could make their employees feel guilty for not working late or taking work home. This often leads to an unstable and anxiety-inducing work environment. Common examples of power harassment from a higher-up include:

  • Intrusion into personal life
  • Demeaning demands
  • Excessive requests that are impossible to meet

4) Examples of Discriminatory Harassment

Unlawful workplace harassment is discriminatory in nature. As opposed to physical or psychological harassment, this type is defined by its intentions, not how it’s committed. Instead, the victim is harassed because they are a member of a protected class. Factors like race, gender, religion, age, and sexual orientation are considered protected under federal law. Examples of this type of harassment include:

  • Racial slurs
  • A male nurse is harassed for having a “woman’s job”
  • Intolerance toward religious holidays or traditions
  • Someone over the age of 40 being left out of activities or meetings
  • Degrading comments or jokes about sexual orientation

5) Retaliation

Retaliation can occur in a variety of ways. It typically happens when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in protected legal activity against the company. As a result, the employer tries to make the employee regret their actions. Retaliation can also happen if an employee reports their coworker for inappropriate conduct. The harasser could retaliate by making the everyday work environment uncomfortable in order to discourage them from making any more reports. Examples of retaliation in the workplace include:

  • Reducing pay or demoting an employee after a complaint was submitted
  • A boss firing someone for reporting unlawful or inappropriate conduct
  • A coworker harassing another worker to deter them from filing additional complaints

Protect Your Rights with McMath Woods P.A.

If you feel you’re being harassed in your workplace, you have the right to seek legal representation. Letting improper workplace behavior go may mean it will continue. Depending on the situation, other employees could begin to suffer, as well.

Taking action against a boss or coworker can be overwhelming, but our lawyers will make the process as easy as possible for you. We’ll work on collecting evidence and building a case that proves you were wronged. To learn more about your legal rights and options in regard to workplace harassment and other areas of employment law, contact our firm today.

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