How to Prevent Harassment in the Workplace
Each year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives approximately 70,000 charges for workplace harassment. One in ten of those charges are filed for sexual harassment in the work environment.
Different Types of Harassment in the Workplace
If you look at it from a non-legal perspective, workplace harassment can ruin careers and turn a company into an unproductive and hostile work environment. The form of harassment may vary since the discrimination behind it is based on different traits.
One Reddit user had an experience with a coworker who obviously did not like him. She mocked him, gossiped about him behind his back, and even mimicked his way of speaking.
Another user shared her story about a much older colleague who sexually harassed her at work. He kept asking inappropriate questions about sex, telling her stories about him and his wife and asking to see pictures of her.
An employee of a mid-sized company described a hostile work environment his boss created by being extremely verbally abusive. The boss made rude comments insulting the appearance and work ethics of the original poster (OP) repeatedly.
If you look at it from a legal perspective, workplace harassment is discrimination. It violates different laws, including the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Charges filed to the EEOC claim different types of discrimination. The most frequently filed charges, according to EEOC statistics, are:
Charges Filed to the EEOC
|Percentage of All Charges Filed|
Harassing behavior in the workplace can be roughly divided into three types :
- Verbal harassment—which includes rude remarks, comments, offensive texts, or inappropriate emails
- Sexual harassment in the workplace—which includes quid-pro-quo and sexual harassment by peers
- Corporate stalking—which can consist of both cyberstalking and offline forms of stalking in the workplace
These three types are intertwined and often happen simultaneously. They can happen through digital communication channels or in real life. Workplace harassment can also lead to a hostile work environment—a situation in which an individual is not capable of performing their job due to the constant torment by their coworkers.
Dealing With Harassment in the Workplace
The responsibility of preventing harassment in the workplace is placed on the employer. It's up to them to implement prevention measures and harassment policies to create a safe environment for their employees.
If you are harassed or worry that you might become a target of harassment, it is your responsibility to react—confront the harasser or a stalker, report the behavior, file a claim with the EEOC, or file a lawsuit.
What is not your responsibility—and what you should most certainly not feel guilty about—is preventing harassing behavior from happening in the first place. The harassment is never the victim's fault.
What Can Your Employer Do to Prevent Harassment in the Workplace?
Employers can implement different strategies to reduce the risk of harassment occurring in their company.
Some of the steps a company can take to protect its collective are:
- Setting up anti-harassment policies—the policies should describe different forms of harassment and include guidelines for employees on how to report it
- Conducting training sessions for employees—training should focus on explaining that employees have a right to a workplace free of any kind of harassment
- Training supervisors and managers—training should educate the managers and supervisors on how to deal with complaints
- Taking all complaints seriously—the company should investigate any complaints regarding sexual or any other harassment immediately
If the Harassment Happens, What Can You Do?
If you are the victim of workplace harassment, you have several options:
- Check the anti-harassment policy set up by your company
- Show the harasser their behavior is unwanted
- Report the harassment to your employer
- File a claim with the EEOC
- Go to trial
- Document everything regardless of the steps you are going to take to stop harassment
Check the Anti-Harassment Policy Set Up by Your Company
Your company likely has an anti-harassment policy set in place. Make sure to read it carefully and understand what is considered harassment in your place of work.
Show the Harasser Their Behavior Is Unwanted
The harasser should know you don't approve of their behavior. Confront them in person and tell them to stop. In case you don't feel comfortable doing this, avoid any chance of physical contact and send them a cease and desist letter.
Report the Harassment to Your Employer
If your company has an anti-harassment policy, follow it to report the harassment through proper channels. If there is no policy set in place, talk to your supervisor, or contact the HR department. If you decide to go to court, it is essential to be able to prove you have exhausted all the other options. There is, of course, an option that your company manages to resolve the issue.
File an Administrative Charge With the EEOC
If your previous steps didn't work out and you decide to file a lawsuit, going through the EEOC is your next step.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that governs civil rights laws against workplace harassment. Before suing your employer, it is your legal obligation to file a claim with the EEOC first. All of the laws enforced by the EEOC, require you to file a claim with them before you can file a job discrimination lawsuit against your employer.
The agency will initiate a months-long investigation, after which you can expect one of the following outcomes:
- Your claim might be rejected due to the lack of or unsustainability of evidence
- Your case might be left to be solved internally—within the company. The agency might suggest mediation or discussion sessions to solve the problem
- Your claim might be liable for compensation
- You might be able to file for a restraining order
- You might get a right to sue letter
Go to Trial
After an investigation, the EEOC might issue you a right to sue letter. You can use this letter to file a federal lawsuit against your employer. You can also try to file a lawsuit in state court. In that case you can file a charge with a local or state agency similar to the EEOC.
You cannot win a case in court or even expect a positive outcome of the EEOC investigation without written proof that you have tried to solve the matter beforehand.
If you want to end the harassment or stop a stalker in the workplace, here are the things you have to do:
- Take screenshots of offensive texts, harassing emails, social media threads, and comments
- Save photos and videos of explicit and inappropriate content you get from the harasser
- Save logs of harassing calls
- Write down the details of every harassing incident
- Save any physical evidence like gifts, notes, and letters
If evidence is digital, make a hard copy. Keep everything in a safe place outside of work.
Use DoNotPay to Stop Workplace Harassment
DoNotPay is the first robot lawyer in the world, and it can assist you in dealing with workplace harassment.
Here is how to do it:
- Log into DoNotPay in your web browser
- Select the Relationship Protection option
- Begin chatting with our chatbot and choose Safety and Stalking
- Type in the name of the harasser
- Describe the incidents in detail
- Use the cease and desist letter that the app will generate to let the perpetrator know that they must stop harassing you
You can send the letter to the harasser demanding an immediate stop to all actions or use it as proof later in court.
Other Things DoNotPay Can Do for You
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- Scheduling a DMV appointment
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- Protecting yourself safe from stalking and harassment