How to Handle Workplace Harassment

Author: Alison Doyle Source: The Balance Careers

Employees can be harassed in quite a variety of ways at work. While sexual harassment garners most of the attention, many non-sexual types of harassment can, and do, often occur on the job.

It’s important to understand harassment in the workplace because it can affect you and impact your career in different ways. Knowing what constitutes harassment can help you spot it, and know how to handle it if it happens to you, or even better, help you prevent it from happening in the first place.

This includes recognizing what qualifies as harassment, how to file a harassment claim, and what to do if you lose your job because you’ve reported harassment.

01 – Types of Harassment

Many types of harassment can occur on the job. Workplace harassment, whether verbal or physical, based on sex, religion, or race, is unlawful and a form of discrimination.

The definition of harassment can vary from state to state. A Florida court deemed “fat jokes” offensive and in Wisconsin and New York, it’s illegal to harass employees based on their criminal record. The issue of defining harassment can be a tricky subject.

02 – Sexual Harassment


Sexual harassment in the workplace includes any uninvited comments, conduct, or behavior regarding sex, gender, or sexual orientation. It also qualifies as a form of discrimination

Sexual harassment does not have to occur between co-workers of the opposite sex. It’s also not limited to touching or spoken words. Obscene images and videos, emails and even staring in a suggestive manner can be deemed offensive.

03 – Non-Sexual Harassment

Harassment in the workplace can also consist of other actions regarding religion, race, age, gender, or skin color, for example. Actions involving these subject matter areas qualify as harassment if they interfere with an employee’s success or create a hostile work environment.

Non-sexual harassment can include offensive language regarding a person’s physical or mental disabilities or differences as well. Pointing out or continually alluding that someone’s too fat, too old, or too stupid can be deemed as harassment. Creating a hostile work environment is considered harassment.

04 – How to File a Harassment Claim

If you feel like you’ve been a victim of workplace harassment, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Before you file the claim, educate yourself to ensure that the incident actually counts as harassment.

For various reasons, people make many false claims of harassment and you must know the facts and correct steps needed to file a claim. This helps legitimate cases proceed and find an appropriate resolution that you’re comfortable with.

05 – Handling Illegal or Inappropriate Interview Questions

Did you know that an interviewer cannot legally ask you certain questions when you’re applying for a job? Questions about race, gender, religion, and other personal aspects of your life are prohibited by both state and federal laws.

To protect yourself from potential harassing questions, you need to understand these illegal or inappropriate inquiries while searching for a job. Certain questions may not only be against the law but can be a key sign that the company does not make a good fit for you.

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