Victims and employers are often unsure about what qualifies as harassment and how to respond to what they believe may or may not be harassment. It is important to fully understand the legal definition of harassment in order to address it in the workplace.
Workplace harassment is all too common. One in four women and one in 10 men in the United States say they have been harassed at work.
Workplace harassment can ruin a great job and turn a company into a toxic and unproductive environment. It can also result in an employer being found legally liable and paying substantial fines for not adequately addressing an issue. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace harassment cost businesses $56.6 million in 2018 in lawsuits, lost hours and employee firing and hiring costs.
There continues to be confusion and uncertainty about harassment. Employees and employers are not always clear about what constitutes harassment, how to report it and when to take action. This can result in a problem that could have been solved internally rather than growing into a lawsuit.
In this course, we will cover:
- An overview of harassment in the workplace
- Understanding types of harassment
- The law and your responsibility as an employer
- How to prevent harassment in the workplace
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when this conduct affects an employee’s job or performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Under federal law, it is illegal to harass a person in any aspect of employment because of that person’s race or color. Harassment can include racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race or color, or the display of racially-offensive symbols.
Harassment of an individual over the age of 40, because of their age, violates the law when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted),” according to the EEOC.
National origin-based harassment can include ethnic slurs, workplace graffiti, physical violence or other offensive conduct directed toward individuals because of their birthplace, ethnicity, culture, language, dress or foreign accent.
Disability harassment is unwelcome conduct based on an employee’s physical or mental disability. Harassment might take the form of name-calling, cruel jokes, and mean comments, or it might escalate to threats and actions, from tampering with an employee’s equipment or workspace to physically intimidating an employee with a disability.
Under Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees may not be treated differently because of what they believe or don’t believe, harassed or prevented from observing their religious traditions.
An employer is liable for harassment by anyone involved with their business, who is under the employer’s control, including independent contractors or customers, if the employer was aware, or should have been aware, of the harassment and failed to address it.
The first step to preventing harassment in the workplace is for the employer to develop a clear, comprehensive harassment policy — and to ensure that all employees are fully educated about the policy and their options if they are harassed at work.