Top 10 Types of Common Workplace Harassment
Common workplace harassment breaks down the employment relationship, causing a loss of trust between employer and employee as well as a loss in productivity and efficiency. A safe and healthy work environment benefits the employees and employers alike. Therefore, the federal government issued laws that protect the employee’s right to a harassment-free workplace.
The general definition of harassment is simple. Actions or words that pester or annoy someone beyond what is reasonable creates a hostile work environment. Harassment can originate from many different people in the workplace, whether a manager, coworker, or customer.
Depending on the situation and the legally protected class, an employee may be protected from workplace harassment. To help recognized common types of workplace harassment, keep reading for the top ten types of common workplace harassment.
Top 10 Types of Common Workplace Harassment
1. Sexual Harassment
Headlining many employment lawsuits, sexual harassment can not only be blatant but subtle as well. Obvious sexual harassment is when coworkers or managers request sexual favors or make unwanted sexual advances. However, ongoing offensive and suggestive jokes can be considered harassment. Posters, photos, and computer screen savers with sexually suggestive content also fall into the category of sexual harassment.
Protecting Law: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) outlines the basic protections of employees for sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
2. Race Harassment
When people look differently than the major population, that minority may face workplace harassment due to race. When an employer allows workers and managers to make racially inappropriate jokes and stereotypical comments about certain races, this can create a hostile work environment. The law demands that employers protect the employee rights of workers who are a part of the legally protected class of race.
Protecting Law: Title VII prohibits workplace harassment prompted by a worker’s race or ethnicity.
3. Disability Harassment
Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that disability often draws extra workplace harassment. However, it is illegal for employers, employees, and customers to harass workers with disabilities. The law even makes room to protect employees who might be perceived as having a disability even if they don’t have one. Qualified employees with a disability should not face harassment, discrimination, or retaliation for exercising their rights under the law due to their disability.
Note: Veterans and active service members receive additional protections from the law and are protected from workplace harassment due to their status in the armed forces. The USERRA outlines requirements placed on employers in dealing with uniformed service members.
Protecting Law: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as PHRA provide certain protections to workers with disabilities.
4. Age Harassment
When employees reach a certain age, they sometimes become a target for harassment in the workplace. Coworkers and employers might begin to call older workers’ names such as “grandma” or draw attention to their old age. Asking older workers when they’re going to retire can be viewed as harassment as well. Employees who see a clear pattern of age harassment that becomes employment discrimination may have a case.
Protecting Law: The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) prohibits any employment practices that allow harassment or discrimination due to an employee’s age, specifically ages 40 years and older.
5. Citizenship Status Harassment
National origin of employees can sometimes place these workers in a position to be harassed by managers and employees alike due to their citizenship status. Employees who are authorized to work in the United States should not deal with national origin harassment in job assignments, training, hiring, or terminating. Name calling and stereotyping based on national origin can be clues to ongoing workplace harassment.
Protecting Law: The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits employers from discriminating against work-authorized employees due to their citizenship status or national origin in all employment actions.
Employers are obligated by the law to protect employees with religious beliefs from workplace harassment. In fact, when a religion dictates a specific dress code or prayer observance, the employer must endeavor to initiate a conversation about reasonable accommodations. Employees who experience harassment from coworkers or supervisors due to their religion may have a viable case.
Protecting Law: Title VII requires that employers do what they can to protect employees with religious beliefs from harassment and discrimination while at work.
7. Gender Harassment
Many may lump gender harassment with sexual harassment, but these two categories are different. When two applicants are equally qualified and experienced, an employer cannot choose one over the other due to gender. Moreover, gender harassment can look like coworkers and supervisors making jokes or comments about a gender’s ability to do certain work. Male-dominated industries often have problems with gender harassment.
Protecting Law: Title VII protects the employee rights of workers who might experience harassment and discrimination due to their gender.
8. LGBT Harassment
Workplace harassment due to a worker’s sexual orientation can cause extreme tension in the work environment. A safe and healthy work environment results in better efficiency and overall profit. In some cases, LGBT harassment and discrimination can be argued as sex discrimination. Therefore, it’s important for employers to be proactive in avoiding LGBT harassment in their workplace.
Protecting Law: Local governments within Pennsylvania have made LGBT discrimination illegal in the workplace. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include LGBT discrimination in sex discrimination.
9. Gender Identity Harassment
As transgenders become more and more normal in our day, workplace harassment against these individuals also grows. Transgender workers deal with all sorts of harassment from daily name calling to more obvious discrimination in job assignment and even termination. Any type of transgender harassment in the workplace can create a hostile and unsafe work environment for every employee.
Protecting Law: The EEOC and lower federal courts believe that transgender individuals are protected under Title VII. Although there is no complete ruling on transgender harassment, federal employees are protected while private employees may find protections in a lawsuit.
10. Retaliation Harassment
Often when an employee reports ongoing harassment due to one of the above legally protected statuses and that employee pursues his or her employee rights, they may experience retaliation. Employers or managers may want to intimidate employees from taking action on their employee rights, but this is illegal. Therefore, if you face retaliation on top of ongoing workplace harassment, contact an employment lawyer immediately.
Protecting Law: Title VII, ADA, and many other laws protects employees from retaliation when they file a complaint for harassment.
2015 Statistics on Workplace Harassment Claims
In June 2016, the EEOC published a report entitled “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.” The report is split into four parts, but beyond the introduction and conclusion, the report analyzes what is known about harassment and how to continue to prevent harassment. In part 2, the EEOC highlights the below statistics.
The EEOC shows the prevalence of different types of alleged harassment for employees of private or state and local government employers. Also, the percentages don’t total to 100% because some claims included other types of harassment.
- 45% claimed harassment on the basis of sex
- 34% claimed harassment on the basis of race
- 19% claimed harassment on the basis of disability
- 15% claimed harassment on the basis of age
- 13% claimed harassment on the basis of national origin
- 5% claimed harassment on the basis of religion
What Does Workplace Harassment Look Like?
Harassment shows up in different forms in the workplace. Employers and employees alike must know what constitutes as workplace harassment. Harassment usually falls into one of these four categories of written, verbal, visual, or physical. When an action or comment is recognized as workplace harassment, an employee can seek to take next steps to fight for their employee rights.
Verbal and Written Harassment
One of the most obvious and easily recognizable is verbal or written harassment. When a coworker or manager says something inappropriate on a routine basis, this is harassment. Some examples of verbal and written harassment are below:
- Making inappropriate and offensive comments or jokes about someone’s age, disability, or sex
- Sending emails or texts with rude slurs or sexual graphics
- Asking for sexual favors
- Mimicking someone’s foreign accent in a rude manner
This is often a very subtle harassment in the workplace and can be difficult to recognize. Sometimes security cameras might catch evidence of physical harassment. Here are a few examples of what to watch for to recognize physical harassment.
- Inappropriate hand gestures or other actions that have a rude meaning
- Unwanted physical contact with another person or their clothing
- Violating personal boundaries
- Joking inappropriately around others who might feel harassed
Being able to notice visual harassment requires empathy and sensitivity to others and their perspective of the world. Visual harassment is subjective in many ways. Here are some areas to be aware of when it comes to visual harassment.
- Clothing with vulgar language
- Posters or pictures with a sexual nature
- Sharing sexually suggestive text messages, emails, or photos
Fight against Workplace Harassment
Ending harassment in the workplace requires every employer and employee to know how to recognize common workplace harassment sitations. When harassment creates a hostile work environment, employees have the right to request changes to be made in the workplace. If an employer fails to do so, the employee should seek legal advice from an employment lawyer.
If you have experienced workplace harassment, contact an employment lawyer who will know how to navigate your case and your rights under the law.