What Counts As Harassment: Employee Rights At The Workplace

Harassment is not a thing to be avoided. If anyone is facing any sort of harassment anywhere, be it workspace, at school, or any place, they should call out for action. 

Harassment refers to the bigotry amongst the workers who contravene the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, ADEA, and the 1990 act of Americans with Disabilities, ADA. It refers to harmful and homicidal behavior directed at persons based on their gender identity, caste, color, national identity, or impairments. It also includes the unwelcoming behavior towards colleagues based on their age, genetic information, and sexual orientation. It is an unlawful activity carried out in every corner of the world.  

Harassment And Laws

This harassment activity becomes severe and illegitimate when the behavior is continued for a long period and becomes a part of the work environment. Also, when the behavior is hostile enough for a person to leave work. However, while lesser incidences and annoyances may not constitute harassment, the repetition of such behavior is considered unlawful and harassing. 

The government enforces several anti-discrimination regulations to prevent harassment among individuals. Few people harass others in retaliation for submitting a claim of discrimination or participating in any form of inquiry procedure, which is then followed by litigation. All such behavior leads to a violation of the laws amended by the US government. 

Kinds Of Workplace Harassment

Any kind of offensive behavior is considered as harassing an individual. Behavioral practices like; 

  • Derogatory jokes and comments
  • Catcalling/ name-calling
  • Assaults (physical) and death threats
  • Intimidation, mockery, or interference in the work allotted
  • Putting down the person, projecting offensive pictures 

On the other hand, the perpetrator could be anyone, including the victim’s boss or another field supervisor, any agent or employee, or any visitor. The world is full of such people. The victim can be pretentious by the verbal comments/conduct too. It does not necessarily have to be any kind of physical assault. 

However, if you face any type of harassment, you should leave that workspace. The employees are hence advised to undertake necessary actions against unlawful conduct. On the other hand, employers should conduct the required training programs for their employees so that they are aware of what to do in such a situation.

Acknowledging the harasser’s behavior is necessary. It is better to let them know that you do not appreciate the behavior and if they continue the same conduct, call for action. Also, you as an employee should inform the senior members of the firm about the unhealthy conduct of the harasser. 

The most common form of harassment is the one carried out sexually. Sadly, society is developing but cannot upgrade its mentality. People are ready to upgrade their salary, their businesses but not their thinking and code of conduct. And this behavior makes it impossible for a normal employee to survive in an environment where they are constantly being catcalled or touched inappropriately.

However, in the US, the laws are strict and undertake the correct measures to prevent such activities. Prevention techniques and punishment measures are undertaken so that everyone feels safe.

What Is Sexual Harassment In Workplace?

It refers to unsolicited requests for sexual favors, verbal or physical, from someone. The conduct is mentioned as sexual harassment behavior when the employment decisions affect the individual who rejected the unsolicited requests for sexual favors.

Or the other case is when the individual starts intimidating the employee and initiates abuse in the work environment. However, compliance with such unwelcoming behavior is always wrong, and even if you are getting inappropriate services and appraisals, you cannot sustain in such an unhealthy environment.

There are many more things that are included in the term harassment. According to the Preventing Sexual Harassment SDC IP 73 (1992) Manual, sexual harassment consists of many activities;

  • Attempt to rape or assault.
  • Unsolicited requests for sexual favors.
  • Intentional touching, giving sexual gestures, catcalling/ name-calling.
  • Unasked calls, messages, or any material related to sexual nature.
  • Calling out unhealthy jokes, comments, or remarks.
  • Whistling/ calling names.
  • Turning discussions into sexual topics/ asking personal questions about sex life or spreading tittle-tattle about one’s sex life.
  • Commenting on clothing, appearance.
  • Presenting with personal gifts, touching inappropriately like providing neck massage, hugging, kissing, spanking, or patting.
  • Checking out anyone/ staring for a longer time.
  • Facial gestures – suggestive of sexual involvement like winking.

All such behaviors are counted as an early sign of sexual harassment and should not be tolerated under any condition. If something is making you feel uncomfortable, you should confront the person. And acknowledge the fact that you do not like that behavior; if they persist in that behavior, you should take the necessary actions.

Responsibilities Of The Department

If any department receives any complaint regarding the sexual harassment of any individual, they should undertake the necessary actions. The main point where people can contact to get the appropriate information regarding sexual harassment is The Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR). This agency is responsible for investigating and supervising the investigations being conducted. This policy asks the supervisors to look forward to the activity immediately as they get informed. Violation of this policy can lead to serious actions. 

Since the department is responsible for the safety of workers and that they can work without being threatened or disturbed. Hence, the department of the organization has to undertake the necessary actions to maintain a healthy work environment. If this is not followed, it may be considered a violation of federal law and policy.

Rights Of The Employees Under (S/Ocr) Policy:

Any employee who feels any harmful activity around them, be it colleague, supervisor, or visitor, should acknowledge the person and ask them to stop immediately. If they continue to do the same, you should inform the members in the department responsible for the maintenance of a healthy work environment. There are many ways by which you can find the resolution by yourself, which are as follows:

  • Mediation

It is a way to solve a problem, basically an informal way, in which you call out the unsolicited behavior and resolve the issue by talking to the other person. If you don’t succeed in this call for department officials and this process, you can ask for a mediator from the S/OCR. 

  • Grievances and the EEO process

The civil servants who do not get covered with the negotiated grievances procedures cannot bring up the EEO matters, whereas the servants who get covered with the negotiated grievances covered include EEO procedures. Every US employee or US citizen working overseas can file the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint with the department. 

It affects not only the physical but mental peace of any individual. And it results in affecting the work performance of any individual. Such behavior should be called out at the initial stages.

Conclusion

Harassment is something that cannot be neglected. It can hamper the daily functioning and performance of any individual. And this is a problem that is not gender-specific. Harassment refers to the unsolicited requests for sexual favor or discrimination of any individual based on their identity, be it social identity, nationality, or gender identity. It is also based on age, caste, color, and more. One should take help from the seniors in the department or external officials.

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