Harassment at the Workplace: Examining Your Legal Options

Employees spend an average of 40 – 55 hours at work every week. This is why it is important to have a safe and healthy working environment, both physically and mentally.

However, many employees suffer from workplace harassment due to one reason or another. In this blog we will review some of the common workplace harassment and what you can do to take legal actions.

Harassment at Work

Understanding workplace harassment can be difficult. Sometimes the victim and perpetrator of harassment don’t even realize that harassment is taking place. Following is a list of workplace harassment that could be cause for legal action.

Discriminatory Harassment

This is by far the most common type of harassment. It occurs when colleagues or supervisors discriminate against you on the basis of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

Personal Harassment

This occurs when a colleague or boss starts harassing another person on personal traits by passing inappropriate comments, offensive jokes or use of intimidation.

Physical Harassment

This is dangerous type of harassment where an employee can receive physical injury. This usually happens through workplace violence, destruction of property or practical jokes gone too far.

Psychological Harassment

Psychological harassment can have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental health and well being. This happens when colleagues or a supervisor starts belittling an employee’s work or personal life issues or people isolate an individual or spread rumors about the person.

Sexual Harassment

This is a type of harassment that is sexual in nature such as offensive jokes, unwelcome touching and sexual advances. Most cases involve male offenders and female victims however there are also cases where roles might be reversed.

Online Harassment

Online harassment takes place through the medium of internet. Many people believe that internet is outside the workplace domain and does not constitute harassment. However if both the victim and perpetrator work in the same office, it can be considered a form of workplace harassment. Examples include commenting, threatening or posting offensive material on a coworker’s profile, spread lies or gossip about the victim or mass emailing humiliating information about the victim to other co-workers.

Power Harassment

This occurs when there is a power disparity between two employees and the one with the power abuses or harasses the coworker in any manner. Commonly this occurs when a supervisor coerces a subordinate by withholding bonuses or promotions, treats them unfairly or makes excessive demands that are impossible to meet.

Employer Responsibilities

It is an employer’s responsibility to prevent all sorts of harassment at work. If you have suffered due to harassment from coworkers or your supervisor, you should report it to your line manager or HR at first. Make sure that you document the harassment, your attempt to raise the issue and the response from your company.

Due to rising incidents of harassment, HR and management is increasingly being trained to handle all sorts of harassment problems. However, if your company does not resolve the issue, you should consider legal options before making any rash decisions like quitting.

Legal Options

Legal action involves suing the perpetrator for his/her behavior or the company for failing to prevent the harassment from continuing, or both. A court decision in your favor can lead to compensation or adjustments at the workplace to improve your colleague/supervisor behavior.

If you have been harassed by your colleagues or supervisors at work, home or online, you can take legal actions against them to stop the behavior. Our legal counseling team can advise you on what actions should be taken based on your situation.