Workplace harassment is a pervasive problem in workplaces in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and throughout the U.S. Some types of workplace harassment are illegal. You should recognize the different forms of workplace harassment and know the unlawful types. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler might help if you have been the victim of illegal harassment at your job. Here are the most common types of harassment in the workplace and the steps that you can take when you are being harassed.
Discriminatory harassment occurs when someone harasses another person because of the victim’s membership in a protected class. Workplace harassment that is based on a person’s protected characteristics is unlawful under state and federal law. Some of the different types of discriminatory harassment will be described in more detail below.
Harassment based on race
Racial harassment is harassment of a victim because of his or her skin color, race, ancestry, or citizenship status. If the harassment is based on the perception that a person is a race, the mere perception is enough to qualify as prohibited racial harassment. Racial harassment might include slurs, insults, racist jokes, degrading comments, racial disgust, and other behaviors.
Harassment based on gender
Gender harassment occurs when coworkers, supervisors, or third parties discriminate against someone at work based on the victim’s gender. Often, gender harassment occurs because of negative stereotypes about how women and men should act. Both men and women can be victims of gender discrimination.
Harassment based on religion
Religious harassment sometimes overlaps with harassment based on race, but it is more focused on the religious beliefs of the victim. Religious harassment can include intolerance towards the victim’s religious customs, traditions, holidays, and clothing. It can also include negative religious jokes, degrading comments, and pressure to convert to a different religion.
Harassment based on disability
Workplace harassment based on a worker’s real or perceived disability is illegal. It is also unlawful to discriminate against a worker because of his or her relationship to a disabled person or because the worker uses disability services. Disability harassment can include joking, patronizing behavior, isolation, and refusals to provide reasonable accommodations.
Harassment based on sexual orientation
Workplace harassment based on sexual orientation is gaining greater recognition. This occurs when victims are harassed because their sexual orientations are different from the people around them. People of any type of sexual orientation may face this type of harassment. For example, a heterosexual man might be harassed for working as a hairdresser while a homosexual man might be harassed when working in a construction job.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on the age of workers who are 40 or older. In New Jersey, the Law Against Discrimination prohibits age-related discrimination of workers who are any age. Age-related harassment can include insults, teasing, unfair criticism, and being left out of meetings or activities based on the worker’s age.
Personal harassment is a type of harassment at work that is not discriminatory. It is also called bullying, and it is not illegal. Personal harassment can include offensive jokes, comments, humiliation, criticism, ostracism, and intimidation.
Physical harassment is a type of workplace harassment that includes physical threats or attacks. In some cases, it can be an assault. Physical harassment may be criminal. Some examples of physical harassment include the following:
- Threats of harm
- Hitting, shoving, or kicking
- Threatening behavior
- Destruction of property to intimidate someone
People in certain industries, including health care, law enforcement, social services, and education, have a higher risk of workplace violence.
Power harassment occurs when there is a difference in power between the victim and the harasser. The harasser bullies someone who has a lower status in the workplace hierarchy. Power harassment can include making excessive demands, demeaning comments, intruding into the worker’s personal life, verbal intimidation, or physical harassment.
Psychological harassment involves actions that harm a victim’s psychological wellbeing.
This can negatively impact the victim’s work life, health, and social life. Workplace psychological harassment might include isolating the victim, ignoring the victim, belittling the victim, and more.
As more employers embrace technology, the potential for online harassment increases. Workplace online harassment can include such things as spreading gossip about the victim online, sharing humiliating information by mass chat, or sending harassing text messages to the victim.
Retaliation harassment is a type of harassment that is perpetrated to retaliate against someone for participating in a lawfully protected activity. For example, if a worker reports his or her employer to OSHA for safety violations, the employer might try to get revenge by harassing the worker. This is illegal.
Sexual harassment is harassment in the workplace that is sexual and can include unwanted sexual conduct, advances, or behavior. It is a type of illegal discrimination. Some examples of sexual harassment at work can include the following:
- Sharing sexual photographs
- Posting sexual posters
- Inappropriate sexual touching or gestures
- Sexual jokes, comments, or questions
- Invading someone’s space in a sexual manner
Both men and women can be victims of workplace sexual harassment.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a form of workplace sexual harassment that is based on an exchange. For example, if a supervisor conditions a promotion or other benefits on an employee providing sexual favors, it is prohibited quid pro quo sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can also occur when the harasser engages in blackmail to coerce a worker into a sexual act. This type of harassment can be express or implied.
Harassment by third parties
Third parties can also harass people in the workplace. For example, a harasser can be a client, customer, supplier, or vendor. The victims of this type of harassment often hold low-status jobs such as cashiers. Employers still are responsible to take steps to prevent harassment even if it is perpetrated by a third party.
Frequently, verbal harassment results from personality conflicts. It is frequently not illegal. A verbal harasser can simply be someone who is consistently unpleasant. Verbal harassment can include insults, cursing, yelling, or threats in private or public. If verbal harassment is based on a person’s protected class, however, it is illegal.
What to do if you are being harassed
If you are being harassed at work, confront the harasser. In some cases, this may be enough to stop the behavior. If that does not work, file a complaint using your company’s internal complaints process. You should do this in writing, and keep a copy of your complaint together with documentation of all of the incidents of harassment. If the harassment is illegal, and your employer does not appropriately respond to your complaint, talk to an experienced attorney at Swartz Swidler. Contact us by filling out our contact form or calling our law firm at 856.685.7420.