What is harassment? Many people ask that question. Some may think that they are only being nice or joking around when the people around them feel like they are being harassed incessantly. One of the most insipid forms of harassment is when employees are harassed by their bosses. This happens all the time. Even harassment from coworkers can be very common and very hurtful.
An employer may know the answer to the question of what is harassment and still choose to harass his employees. This is due to the fact that many states are what are known as employment-at-will states. This means that the employers can basically do whatever they want and treat their employees in any way they want. It doesn’t matter what the employer chooses to do. There is pretty much nothing that the employee can do about being mistreated.
Employees must be part of what lawyers like to call a protected class in order to have any legal recourse in dealing with their workplace harassment issues. A protected class gets defined as a group that is protected by employment civil rights laws. These groups include people that get harassed for their age, sex, race, disability, religion and national origin.
The hostile environment is the most typical answer to the question of what is harassment. There are laws at both the state and federal level that make it illegal for employers to subject their employees to the hostile environment if they are part of the protected class designated by law. Hostile environments generally involve harassment based on sexual advances. Women can be subjected to activities and comments that are inappropriate just because of their sexiness. Men like to talk about sex and tell dirty jokes. They can touch women inappropriately and even rub her shoulders. Some men even ask the woman if she would like to go out on a date with them. Some of these men are so terrible they might like to look at pictures of women on their computers.
Isolated comments cannot constitute grounds to claim that a work place is a hostile workplace. It does not matter how rude or offensive these comments or actions may seem. There needs to be a constant atmosphere of discomfort in order for someone to accuse their employers of something like that. Cases that include some sort of inappropriate physical contact are easier to prosecute.
People who feel like they have been the victims of hostile environments cannot just go to the authorities and file a claim against their employers. They need to do a few things first. It is important that they make a formal complaint with their employer and let him know exactly how they feel. Many employers have harassment policies. These need to be followed exactly. An employee agrees to follow the policies set forth by her employer when she agrees to take the job. The employer will not be punished in court if the disgruntled employee fails to follow the harassment policy of the company.
Taking things to court should never be the first option. In many of these harassment cases, the employers have no idea that what they are doing is being perceived as harassment. Many people can be very sensitive. This can make identifying harassment very difficult. It is just better for everyone involved if the person who feels victimized puts everything out in the open and lets her employer know how she feels about her treatment. This gives the employer the chance to take care of the issues and improve the environment, which is only fair. If things do not change, the victim no longer needs to feel like she is being too sensitive. She can bring charges with confidence.
Many harassment lawsuits include the policy of the employer and question its legality. Having a policy is not enough to protect the employer from liability in a harassment suit. The defense of the employer having a policy is generally canceled out when the harasser is the president, officer or managing partner in the corporation.
People who get retaliated against for complaining about harassment can bring retaliation cases against their employers. Retaliation is unlawful. However, the employee must have reasonable beliefs that they were victimized by harassment in the first place in order to be able to bring a retaliation case against the employer. Demotions, ostracizing and harassment can fall under the categorization of retailiation. The addition of menial tasks to the responsibilities of the employee, having projects and commission opportunities taken away and termination are also forms of retaliation. Victims of this behavior need to write down their complaints and bring them to the employer through internal procedures.
People who feel victimized by workplace harassment need to complain to their superiors and continue to work happily and productively.