Toxic Work Environments: Understanding the Different Types of Harassment in the Workplace

In America, only about 40% of employees are happy at work.

For the remaining 60%, there’s something bothering them whenever they’re in the office. For some people, it’s the overwhelming workload. For others, it’s the harassment they have to endure while on the clock.

Do you think there’s workplace harassment going on at your office? Then you’ll want to learn more about it to make the space safer.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of harassment in the workplace and what you can do about it.

Gender

One of the most common types of workplace harassment is gender harassment. This is not to be confused with sexual harassment, which we’ll discuss later on.

Gender harassment is where someone is picked on due to the gender they identify with. Usually, this may happen if they work somewhere where the other gender dominates. For example, many women in the tech industry face harassment because their field is mostly filled with men.

You may also face gender harassment if you’re transgender and there are coworkers who aren’t accepting.

Gender harassment may come in the form of belittlement and/or jokes at the expense of the person. In worst-case scenarios, other employees may make threats or actually inflict physical harm on someone just because of their gender.

Sexual

Sexual harassment is basically a step further from gender harassment.

One type is people making unwanted sexual advances and/or saying unwanted sexual things. This includes making any sort of comment about your body or wanting to do certain acts with you. They may try to pass it off as a joke, but these comments are clearly intended to make you feel uncomfortable.

Another type of sexual harassment is where someone will physically get into your space to make you uncomfortable. This can include standing uncomfortably close to you. They might actually touch or grab at you, which is a serious offense. 

A newer type of sexual harassment is through technology. For example, they may load pictures of videos on the digital device and show lewd media to you when you haven’t consented at all.

Racial

With racial harassment, coworkers might make jokes or jabs about someone’s race or ethnicity. Commonly they subscribe to stereotypes, which is very harmful in the workplace.

What most people don’t know is even with positive jokes and stereotypes (such as ones regarding Asians being model minorities), this is still considered a type of racial harassment. All employees should treat one another as equal and the same, meaning all remarks should be free of any racial undertones.

Religious

With every religion, there are certain practices you must adhere to. This may be anything for types of dress, diet, or even length of hair or times for prayer.

Employers and coworkers must respect all religious practices. It’s considered harassment if an employer refuses to let you carry out the tenets of your belief. It’s also considered harassment if your coworkers make derogatory comments toward you based on your religious practices.

The only exception where employers can deny certain practices is if they’re deemed hazardous at work. For example, a headscarf may potentially get jammed in heavy machinery, so this may be prohibited in some workplaces.

Retaliation

Not many people know about retaliation harassment. This is actually what follows when you refuse to respond to any of the above types of harassment. It can also happen if you’ve filed a harassment report and they decide to escalate things.

What You Can Do About All Types of Harassment in the Workplace

The best thing you can do about harassment in the workplace is to speak up. This is especially true if the victim is too terrified to do so themselves.

Whether you’re the victim or a fellow employee is, you should take care to note down all incidences and write down all the details you can. Try and get other people to do the same so there’s supporting evidence. You should be careful if you want to record audio or video, as some states will find this inadmissible and it’s, in fact, illegal to do so without the consent of the other party.

If you’re not the victim, then you should offer to be their moral support if you feel close enough to them.

In any case, you need to sit down with HR to discuss the details surrounding these incidences. Be calm and explain things as clearly as you can.

You should also get a lawyer. For example, if you’re being harassed for being a woman in a male-dominated workplace, you should work with a women’s issues advocate.

Make Sure Workplace Harassment Has No Place in Your Office

Now you know all the different types of harassment in the workplace. With this knowledge, you can be more vigilant and help be people’s advocates if they’re too afraid to speak up. And if you ever feel like you’re the target of harassment in the workplace, you’ll be better-equipped to articulate what’s wrong to HR.

Remember to always stay calm, gather sufficient evidence, and try to present it in as a neutral way as possible. If HR can see that you’re approaching the situation in a level-headed way, then they’ll be more likely to take your case seriously.

If needed, it’s also a good idea to hire a lawyer. They can help you navigate through any tough legal issues and ensure you don’t get wrongly treated by the business that hired you. Should you feel the need to leave the company, an attorney can also make sure you get the best benefits possible so your temporary unemployment isn’t as tough.

Did you find this article on the types of harassment at work informative? Then make sure to take a look at our other blog posts too!

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