The most common forms of harassment in the workplace are verbal or psychological, but more serious forms of harassment, such as physical and sexual, are becoming a growing concern, according to an article in Business News Daily.
All types of harassment are illegal, yet proving it may not always be easy, as some forms of harassment produce little-to-no evidence. Unfortunately, victims of harassment don't always recognize harassment occurs. Some aren't aware of what constitutes harassment. Even those who do are often afraid to report it due out of fear of retaliation.
There are a number of different circumstances in which workplace harassment can occur. The perpetrator may be a supervisor, agent of an employer, a co-worker, or nonemployee. Additionally, a person other than the one being harassed can be negatively affected.
"Some behaviors, albeit making someone uncomfortable, can seem so harmless – there are no physical signs of abuse – that few people want to report them for fear of being seen as petty or as a snitch," says Chris Chancey, founder of Amplio Recruiting, a staffing agency that specializes in building a refugee workforce.
According to Becca Garvin, executive search consultant at Find Great People International, taking action quickly is the best way to end workplace harassment.
"If you are being harassed or think you may be, but are too scared to go forward, educating yourself on the facts is a great way to gain confidence to stand up for yourself," said Garvin.
Know the signs
The Business News Daily article identifies five of the most common forms of workplace harassment and offers advice on how to identify them. These include:
- Verbal harassment: This can include remarks, gestures, criticism, or jokes that are deemed offensive and demeaning. This form of harassment may come as non-threatening to victims. It can even be viewed as conflict rather than harassment. However, this constitutes harassment since it can have a negative psychological impact on those affected.
- Psychological harassment: Like verbal harassment, psychological harassment may not always be apparent to victims. It usually comes in subtle ways, such as imposing exclusionary tactics that can negatively impact an employee's self-esteem. This can include:
- Setting unreasonable deadlines
- Taking credit for the victim's achievements
- Demanding that an employee take on tasks outside the scope of his or her employment
- Perpetually opposing everything the victim says
- Digital harassment: This is an emerging form of harassment in which perpetrators utilize the internet and social media to belittle, mock, or make false allegations against victims. While perpetrators may engage in harassment under the cloak of "free speech," many tend to push the envelope and engage in outright cruel behavior behind the safety of their screen. Luckily, this form of harassment can easily be documented, even after the content has been removed. Victims may capture evidence by taking screenshots on their cellphones or computers, saving emails, and creating a folder where all evidence is stored.
- Physical harassment: This form of harassment can be violent or nonviolent. Unwelcomed physical gestures or touching (even as a joke) can constitute as physical harassment. So can physical assaults, physical threats, and damage to property. Even if no physical harm was done, victims should still report incidents of physical harassment. If a situation escalates into violence, it's best to call 911 immediately.
- Sexual harassment: This form of harassment happens often and affects both women and men. According to a survey conducted by ZipRecruiter, 40 percent of woman and 14 percent of men reported experiencing sexual harassment on the job. This can include:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Inappropriate physical contact
- Sexual jokes
- Sharing pornography
- Sending sexual messages
- Demanding sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or job security
Are you a victim of workplace harassment? Here's how you can take action.
Less explicit forms of workplace harassment may create a gray area that allows perpetrators to continue their behavior without facing consequences. If you're a victim of workplace harassment, the idea of reporting it may make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. However, incidents of harassment will only continue if you don't take action. That's why it's important to take harassment seriously and address it promptly with the utmost discretion.
You may report incidents to your employer's human resources department even if no physical evidence is available. Additionally, a perpetrator may have already been reported by other victims and may be under investigation.
Unfortunately, action isn't always taken to address or prevent workplace harassment. That's why it's critical to discuss your matter with an experienced West Virginia employment lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney may negotiate directly with your employer or proceed with a lawsuit if an agreement can't be reached.
Don't wait. Due to West Virginia's statute of limitations, you may have only up to two years to report an incident. The legal team at Klie Law Offices can help you through the process. Contact us today to get started.