Having problems at work is a normal part of life. Deadlines, projects and clients may induce stress. Competition may be high and pay may be low. There are dozens of reasons why you may hate your job or your boss.
How do you know when those work problems are something bigger? What does harassment in the workplace look like? It is important to be able to recognize it so you know when something is not acceptable and you can take legal action against your place of employment.
Someone teasing you is not necessarily harassment, as unpleasant as the behavior may be. To qualify as bullying, the behavior must be severe and pervasive, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Bullying can also include physical threatens of violence. Often, bullying interferes with your work performance either due to psychological distress or the bully sabotaging your work.
Offensive words and actions
Related but perhaps sometimes less recognizable as harassment is the use of purposely offensive words and actions geared at a protected class, such as race, gender, religion or ability. You may try to pass it off as “guys being guys” or people being ignorant, but it is truly harmful and often leads to a hostile work environment. Examples of these illegal behaviors include the following:
- Sharing sexual stories
- Saying crude or cruel remarks
- Making offensive gestures
- Displaying sexual or racist images
- Touching inappropriately or violently
Furthermore, the words and actions must be unwanted by the recipient to fall under harassment.
Quid pro quo
Advancing through a company requires putting in effort and meeting certain standards, but these requirements cannot involve quid pro quo. This literally translates into “this for that.” In harassment cases, it means you having to perform some favor in order to receive a promotion or pay raise. These favors are most often sexual, but they can also include participating in or converting to a certain religion. Even simply dating a superior can cause problems upon a breakup. Refusing to cooperate not only can cost you advancement but also your job, which would be wrongful termination.