No employee should have to feel out of place at work or fear a coworker or supervisor. Unfortunately, workplace harassment happens more often than we'd like to think. Some research concludes that about half of American workers have either experienced workplace harassment or witnessed it.
Explicit vs. subtle harassment
Workplace harassment can either be explicit or subtle. Some examples of explicit harassment include:
- Humiliating, ridiculing, or berating an employee
- Making threats or making physical contact
- Spreading rumors and gossip
- Insulting an employee
- Engaging in sexual harassment
- Engaging in hazing
Explicit forms of workplace harassment are easier to recognize and may result in criminal charges in some cases. Moreover, this type of harassment produces more evidence that can be used against the perpetrator. For example, emails, audio recordings, video recordings, and witness statements can prove that harassment occurred.
Unfortunately, subtle harassment can be difficult to prove. Employees are still encouraged to keep a log of all incidents (date, time, and nature of the incident), especially if it appears to be ongoing. Having a witness present may also help.
Why it's critical for employers to establish anti-harassment policies
Many employers have anti-harassment policies in place, but don’t always convey them well enough. Employees who have experienced or witnessed bullying may not bother to report it if management or HR is unresponsive.
If you’re not sure what your employer’s anti-harassment policies are, it’s best to speak with your human resources department or review your company's handbook (if there is one available).
Conditions that allow for harassment to take place can destroy a workplace and create distrust among employees. When it is allowed or ignored, it opens the door for further incidents to occur. Even a minor incident can escalate into something more serious if it’s not promptly addressed.
"We've seen cases of workplace violence where people come back and retaliate because they were bullied or hazed," said Jennette Pokorny, chief operating officer of human resources service provider Ever Next HR.
What should I do If I experience or witness bullying in the workplace?
If you experienced or witnessed harassment of any kind, you should report it to your supervisor or company's human resources department as soon as possible. It's the duty of management to immediately address it and put a stop to it.
The harassment will only worsen if management fails to act. Those who experience workplace harassment should never be afraid to speak out and take action. Having an experienced attorney on your side is a good start, and the sooner you take action, the better.
To find out what legal options are available to you, contact Klie Law Offices in West Virginia and schedule your free consultation with our legal team.