Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of an appalling nature. It is usually understood as actions intended to disturb or upset, and it is characteristically cyclic. In the legal sense, it is intentional behavior which is found intimidating or troubling.
In 1964, the United States Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which banned prejudice at work on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin and sex. This later provided the foundation for early harassment law. Also, the New Jersey’s LAD (Law against Discrimination) has banned discrimination on an individual of grounds like age, national origin, creed, sex, race, religion, dynasty, educational background to possessing diseases like cancer or HIV related disorders. This has certainly brought down harassment at workplace but not yet considerably.
There are many types of harassment. Harassment occurring in the workforce is of both types – physical and psychological – and is carried out against a human being or a group, by single person or a group. Following are the very popular types of harassment that are relevant in workplaces.
Bullying is a need to display aggression and is achieved by the expression of interpersonal, behavioral and professional inadequacy. It can be both physical and psychological. In recent years, bullying in the workplace has come to light as being much more severe and common than previously thought.
Psychological harassment constitutes of embarrassing, threatening or rude behavior which is often difficult to detect leaving no proof other than victim reports or protests. It characteristically lowers a person’s confidence and/or causes them a lot of torture. This can take the form of verbal comments, sequences of terrorization, hostile actions or frequent gestures.
Racial harassment is discrimination towards an individual because of their race or cultural background. This may include words, deeds, and actions that are specifically planned to make the individual feel degraded due to their race or background.
In this type of harassment, verbal, emotional or physical abuse is used against individuals because they choose to practice a specific religion. Religious harassment can also include mandatory and spontaneous conversions.
Sexual harassment is most common in the workplaces. It involves unwanted and unwelcome words, deeds, actions, gestures, symbols of a sexual nature that make the individual feel uncomfortable. Gender and sexual abuses fall into this kind. Calling people “gay” or “homo” is a common insult falling into this category. The main spotlight of groups working against sexual harassment is protection for women.
Stalking is the illegal following and scrutiny of an individual, to the extent that the person’s privacy is inappropriately intruded upon, and the victim fears for his security. A considerable number of people reporting stalking episodes claim that they had been stalked by more than one person; with 18.5% reporting that they were stalked by two people, 13.2% reporting that they had been stalked by three or more – according to a significant survey.
To persecute, harass, or torture in a purposeful, calculated, and planned manner as part of an initiation into a group constitutes hazing. Because hazing tends to take place as part of a group’s instigation rituals, the targeted individual is typically a subordinate or outsider. For example, a union pledge, a new employee, or a first-year military cadet.
The use of electronic instruments like cell phones, internet and pagers to harass or abuse a person or persons is electronic harassment. In this, the person can conceal his identity and carry out his motive of harassing without getting detected.
Though harassment comes in many forms, the federal law does not forbid simple teasing, casual comments, or secluded incidents that are not extremely serious. Rather, the conduct must be so unpleasant as to alter the conditions of the individual’s employment. The conditions of employment are altered only if the harassment terminates in a concrete employment action or is sufficiently severe or persistent to create an aggressive work environment.
In the event of being harassed, one has to take a stand and confront the harasser. Sometimes, instead of stopping, they might increase it, in which case the person should continue to escalate the amplification of his/her response. Everyone has a boundary when they start to feel bad and stop being cruel. The person being harassed must speed up the bully’s series of harassments towards that limit.
Even after this if the harassment doesn’t stop, then the individual should draw his/her co-workers’ or seniors’ attention towards this abominable act. There is no shame and certainly no ham in asking for help or assistance while dealing with harassment at workplace. If nothing works, then an official complaint should be launched with the office as well as the police against the perpetrator. Harassment can be completely removed from its roots with proper awareness and appropriate measures towards curbing it.