Small Business Brief


A Detailed Guide to the Different Types of Workplace Harassment

Did you know that both in large and small companies, 32% of employees claim to experience workplace harassment?

When you accept a job, you believe that the company you’re about the join is safe. However, the reality is that you never know the type of people you’ll be dealing with on a day to day basis.

That’s why being familiar with the types of workplace harassment is so important — because it will allow you to identify wrongful situations and report them as soon as you can.

Keep reading and learn about eight common types of harassment at work.

What Is Workplace Harassment?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), workplace harassment refers to any improper behavior, whether it is verbal or physical, that is based on aspects including race, religion, sexual orientation, age, or gender identity.

Workplace harassment is considered to be unlawful when

  • It is used as blackmail (meaning the victim has to endure it in order to keep their job)
  • It impacts the victim’s salary or position
  • It is so serious that anyone in the victim’s shoes would see the workplace as abusive.

If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of harassment, it can be beneficial to speak with an employment attorney. You can find out more about this topic on Fernald Law Group’s website.

The different types of harassment vary based on factors like who the abuser is what the abusive behavior is, and what the reason behind it is:

1. Physical Harassment

Physical harassment involves physical violence toward the victim. In severe cases, it can be considered assault.

So, if someone pushes a coworker, punches them, or kicks them, it is a clear case of physical harassment.

However, this type of attack doesn’t necessarily need to happen, as direct threats and threatening behavior are considered physical harassment. Additionally, it doesn’t need to involve the victim’s body, as damaging their property (like their car or bike) counts as well.

2. Discriminatory Harassment

Discriminatory harassment happens when the abuser targets someone based on their age, gender, race, skin color, or any other protected class. It is typically easy to identify, as the bully tends to be clear about why they’ve chosen their victim.

A few examples of this type of harassment would be using racial slurs, making degrading comments about someone’s gender identity, being intolerant towards someone’s religious traditions, or isolating someone based on their age difference.

3. Personal Harassment

Personal harassment happens when the abuser simply bullies the victim.

Unlike the discriminatory harassment, the bully doesn’t pick on someone because they’re a part of a protected group — it’s just personal.

This can be by making jokes about the person, trying to humiliate them in front of other coworkers, trying to intimidate them, or making condescending comments.

4. Online Harassment

With the fast evolution of technology and the ever-growing number of people who use social media platforms, a new type of harassment emerged and that’s cyberbullying.

As the name suggests, this is the type of harassment that happens through the Internet, so it can be anything from sending wrongful messages or emails to the victim to spreading rumors about them on social media.

The only “good” thing about this type of bullying is that it couldn’t be easier to prove: all you need to do is take screenshots.

5. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is one of the most common types of abusive behavior at work and it many cases, the victims are female.

In fact, in 2018, 60% of women stated that they experience unwanted sexual attention, coercion, or comments.

Thanks to what has become one of the biggest movements of our generation –  the#MeToo campaign – an increasing number of people have gained the courage to report their situation. Fortunately, this type of harassment tends to be taken seriously by the courts.

6. Power Harassment

All companies have a hierarchy and while in most places that hierarchy doesn’t serve as an excuse for mistreating people, there are exceptions.

As the name indicates, this type of harassment happens when someone who’s in an authoritative position uses their power to abuse the victim (who’s in a lower position in the hierarchy).

This can be a bit trickier to identify, as the abuser does, in fact, have a certain level of power.

However, a couple of examples of this would be if a team leader demanded unrealistic amounts of work to be done or assigned the victim tasks that are clearly below their abilities, with the goal of humiliating them.

7. Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid Pro Quo is a type of sexual harassment where the abuser asks the victim to participate in sexual activity and offers job benefits in return.

It is the typical “this for that” type of behavior and it can be explicit or implicit, so it’s not always easy to identify.

In many cases, the abuser offers things like a promotion, a raise, or more opportunities within the company. However, they can also threaten to fire the victim unless they partake in the sexual conduct suggested.

8. Third-Party Harassment

Last but not least, third-party harassment happens when the abuser is someone outside of the company, such as a client or a customer.

So, for instance, if an agency’s client was rude towards a new project manager, that would constitute third-party harassment. The same would happen if a customer attacked a cashier at a grocery store or a courier.

This type of abuse is usually directed at younger employees or people with jobs that are considered “low-status”.

The Importance of Knowing the Different Types of Workplace Harassment

Being aware of the different types of workplace harassment will make it easier to identify unfair where yourself or someone around you has become a victim and to decide which steps you should take to solve the issue.

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