What Constitutes Harassment in the Workplace?

Harassment, as defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is unwelcome conduct based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. While those who experience workplace harassment are expected to report it, studies show that 60% of harassment often never goes reported. In order to understand why this issue occurs so frequently in the workplace but is so often unreported, it is important to first recognize what constitutes harassment, then determine actionable steps to foster a safer work environment.


Types of Harassment 

Discriminatory harassment occurs when an individual is harassed because of their race, gender, age, disability, religion, and/or sexual orientation. Examples include using racial slurs, making jokes about one's disabilities, showing gender bias and/or being intolerant of someone's religion.

Physical harassment, also referred to as “workplace violence”, occurs when one is physically attacked or threatened in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Physical harassment can vary from unwarranted touching to physically damaging property. Due to the different degrees of physical harassment, it can be difficult to identify, especially if no one is physically hurt, and it can be downplayed as harmless by the accused.

Psychological harassment causes a person to feel belittled both personally and professionally. This is typically related to “power harassment”, as co-workers and business leaders can use their position to cause feelings of inferiority. Psychological harassment can cause a decline in one’s mental and physical health and work and social life, resulting in depression, anxiety or even PTSD.

Sexual harassment occurs when one exhibits unwanted sexual advances, conduct or behavior at another person. Studies indicate 40% of women and 14% of men have experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. It’s important to understand anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of sexual harassment, regardless of gender.

Studies show workplace harassment goes unreported due to fear of retaliation and/or lack of support from employers. For victims of workplace harassment, it is essential to report instances to protect others and to feel safe in their workplace environment. Work Shield’s solution enables employees to report instances safely and without fear of retaliation, as each case is carefully reviewed by a Work Shield-certified legal professional. Employers can also feel confident that Work Shield’s reporting system is helping to foster a workplace culture free of harassment, where all employees feel safe and protected. 

At Work Shield, we believe that employees are a company’s greatest asset. To learn more about how you can protect your company culture and create an environment where employees feel valued and heard, contact us here


About Alicia

As the Director of Client Success at Work Shield, Alicia ensures our ships are always sailing smoothly. Her extensive background in varying Human Resources development and administration roles make her the perfect person to help guide Work Shield Certified Partners towards creating more open, positive workplace cultures. 

Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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