Harassment in the Workplace: Know what to do!

Have you ever been in that situation where someone tells a joke to a group of people that you didn’t think was appropriate but you did that half-laugh because everyone else was laughing? How about when you heard a comment that made you uncomfortable? What about someone asking you inappropriate questions? We all have been in these situations and these are all examples of harassment. Harassment in any form anywhere is not acceptable, but when it happens at work, what do you do?

In any workplace there is a No Harassment Policy in the handbook. If there isn’t one, then talk to your supervisor about the lack of a policy and try to get it implemented into the handbook. Harassment includes any jokes, slurs, physical conduct, and any verbal or graphic content relating to an individual’s sex, race, color, religion, age, disability, etc. Sexual harassment includes any sexual advances, offensive touching, requests for sexual favors, and any other verbal, graphic or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

So what do you do when you come across harassment? You can, of course, let the offenders know that they are being inappropriate and hope that they will stop. Maybe that will work, but then we don’t live in an ideal world, either. There will always be the jerks and the ignorant who will keep on doing and saying what shouldn’t be done or said.

If you have been harrassed in any way, first report the harassment to your direct supervisor. A harassment charge stem from what you experienced personally, heard, or saw. It is helpful if you have documented the harassment and if you have any witnesses who have observed the harassment. When you report the harassment, you should be taken seriously and not blown off. If you feel that your direct supervisor has not taken any action regarding your charge, then you should report this to the next in command (your supervisor’s boss) and speak with your Human Resource Department (if you have one). You should not be penalized in any form or shape from reporting a harassment charge.

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