What are the three types of harassment?
- On 17 May 2022
- Posted by Chantal Mariotti
Oh my Goodness! Did he really say that?
First of all, let’s be clear. In order for anyone to allege “harassment”, the unacceptable behavior must be linked to a protected category. In California, the protected categories are:
- Religion (Which includes by the way dress, and grooming practices)
- Sex/Gender (Which includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or any related medical condition)
- Gender Identity, or Gender Expression
- Sexual Orientation
- Marital Status
- Medical Condition
- Military or Veteran Status
- National Origin (Which includes the language used by the individual)
- Disability (Mental and/or physical, including HIV/AIDS, cancer and any genetic characteristics)
- Genetic Information
- Request for Family Care Leave
- Request for Leave for an employee’s own serious health condition
- Request for Pregnancy Disability Leave
- Age (Any person 40 or more years old)
For example, if someone in the workplace makes religious references that may be offensive to someone, this may be viewed as harassment in the workplace.
If the supervisor yells at employees, and the yelling does not make reference to one of the protected categories, and the supervisor does not discriminate, and yells at “everyone” equally, then this is not harassment. It could, however, be viewed as creating a “hostile working environment”.
Let’s now discuss the three types of harassment.
- Visual – Anything employees could see that may be linked to a protected category, may be considered harassment. For example, inappropriate screen savers, posters or pictures, magazines with explicit sexual content… these are all “visual” items that may be offensive to some.
- Verbal – Making inappropriate comments about someone’s body, marital status or other, jokes and/or innuendo’s… these are all “verbal” and may lead to harassment in the workplace.
- Physical – Blocking someone’s passage, physically touching someone in an inappropriate manner, or even just touching their arm for example; depending on how the victim interprets the physical action, this may be viewed as harassment in the workplace.
How to Prevent Harassment in the Workplace
- Make sure you have a harassment policy, and that each employee has received a copy. Have them sign an acknowledgement that they’ve received a copy. The policy should be included in the Company’s Employee Handbook, and often times, it is posted as a separate document somewhere at the worksite.
- Train both your supervisors, managers and hourly employees on this topic. Any employer with at least five (5) employees must, by law, train their supervisors and managers for 2 hours, every two years. New managers and supervisors must be trained within the first 6 months of their employment. Hourly employees must receive at least 1 hour of training on this topic, also every two years.
- If you receive a complaint of harassment – investigate immediately and thoroughly – it’s the law! Take notes and place them along with the witness notes in a confidential file. Then take the appropriate actions with the alleged aggressor.
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