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Is It Workplace Harassment? Learn More From An Experienced Harassment Attorney

Written by Cooper & Friedman PLLC on May 26, 2021

Have you ever experienced something that felt like it could be workplace harassment, but you
felt unsure to take action? Maybe it was an isolated event, or you didn’t think anyone would
believe you, or you didn’t want to lose your job. You tried to minimize your experience, to
move on, while the situation continued to weigh on your quality of work and life.

Workplace Harassment

Harassment can occur in any workplace, in many different forms, such as racial harassment,
gender harassment, religious harassment, disability-based harassment, sexual harassment, age based harassment, physical harassment, personal harassment, and more. According to the U.S.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “harassment is a form of employment
discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).”

While just about everyone gets demoralizing feedback or a stray snub from their boss at some
point in life, unlawful harassment is defined as conduct that also creates “a work environment that
would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.” This includes repeated
behavior, or a pervasive experience that impacts your work.

Workplace Harassment Statistics

In many instances, people are aware they’ve experienced some sort of workplace harassment,
but feel powerless to report it. In fact, research suggests that upwards of 72% of sexual
harassment in the workplace goes unreported. This can be due to a wide number of factors,
such as feelings of guilt, trauma, or just not wanting to “rock the boat.” You may not know who
to report to, or feel like what you share won’t be confidential, or feel like you don’t have
enough physical “evidence” of harassment. Plus, if your entire work environment feels hostile,
it can also be isolating and derailing as a victim of harassment.

Since an estimated 81% of women experience some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime,
it can feel almost expected to undergo harassment in the workplace as a woman. Thanks to a
competitive job market, sometimes women feel lucky to get a certain job, even if it means
tolerating the “creepy” boss. He’s “harmless” or “old-fashioned” are common excuses for
verbal harassment, which is often overlooked. In light of the #MeToo movement, many
workplaces are finally beginning to investigate their culture and also enforce better policies.

Employer Liability

Employers are at a responsibility for preventing harassment in their workplace, as they are
often held liable for when it occurs. Employers are encouraged to clearly communicate their
harassment policies and expectations, establish an accessible grievance process, and also train their
employees with anti-harassment resources. Prevention begins by creating a safe,
communicative work-environment.

Employers can avoid liability if they prove that they quickly, “reasonably” prevented harassing
behavior, or if the victim failed to utilize any corrective opportunities provided by the employer.
In this case, the EEOC will investigate all facets of the situation.

Taking Action – 3 Steps To Take In The Event Of Workplace Harassment

While employers are encouraged to actively prevent harassment, they still fall short in many
cases. If you or someone you love has experienced workplace harassment, there are several
recommended steps you should take.

1. If possible, attempt to resolve the issue with your harasser. However, this only applies to non-physical
abuse, situations in which you think dialogue may be able to resolve the problem.

2. If step 1 doesn’t work or isn’t applicable, escalate the situation by bringing it to the attention
of your manager or an HR representative. It’s a good idea to acquire and save as most evidence
as you can, such as screenshots, texts, emails, voicemails, or photos.

3. If Step 2 fails, it’s time to go further. File a claim through your workplace’s system, or through
your state’s Commission of Human Rights/Civil Rights Commission, or even the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission. Most organizations require you to file your claim within
180 days of an incident, so don’t wait.

For additional guidance and help, you can also contact an experienced workplace harassment
attorney like the team at Cooper and Friedman PLLC. Attorneys that specialize in workplace
harassment are skilled at helping you build a case, file a complaint, and pursue legal action. The
attorneys at Cooper and Friedman PLLC also have decades of experience fighting for the rights of
workers across the state of Kentucky and in Southern Indiana. For additional information or to
schedule a free legal consultation with a workplace harassment lawyer, call 502-459-7555

Posted Under: Harassment, Workplace Injury

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