What is Considered Harassment?
- On 9 March 2022
- Posted by Chantal Mariotti
Harassment can be displayed in many different fashions. There are two distinct types of harassment – Sexual Harassment and Other Types of Harassment.
- Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can be displayed with certain behaviors, like unwelcomed sexual advances, request for sexual favors, or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. In the workplace for example, managers and supervisors must always “Wear the White Hat”; meaning that they must always display good behaviors and follow their company’s sexual harassment policy. They must be “the good guys” and be irreproachable. Employees should feel comfortable reaching out to their supervisor or manager if they feel sexually harassed in any way.
Sexual harassment can be displayed also in the workplace via inappropriate videos, or photos displayed on a computer screen for example. This would be considered “Visual” sexual harassment. “Verbal” sexual harassment may be inappropriate sexual comments made by someone in the workplace. Even if the language is intended for one person, if another person walking by hears the sexual comment, this can also be construed as verbal sexual harassment towards that person too.
- Other Types of Harassment
Harassment comes in many different shapes and forms – Harassment that is not sexually based, must be related to a “protected category, in order for it to be considered illegal harassment.
So what is a protected category?
A protected category is defined by law, and by State. In California for example, we have the most protected categories out there. They include:
- 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)
How Can Employers Protect Themselves Against Harassment in the Workplace?
Employers must have a Harassment Policy, typically outlined in their Employee Handbook. A copy of the harassment policy should be provided to each and every employee, and it is a best practice to have the employee sign an acknowledgement of receipt of the policy.
Supervisor and manager training is vitally important. If your company has at least 5 employees, then your managers and supervisors should receive a 2-hour training session on this topic, every 2 years. Moreover, hourly employees should also receive a 1-hour training. It is a best practice to have a sign-in sheet with the employee name, title, signature, date of training and title of the training provided.
If an employee alleges harassment, it is the obligation of the manager (or company owner, or the HR professional) to conduct an immediate investigation to determine if harassment occurred. That’s the law! A best practice is to document the investigation, and all interviews conducted during the investigation. The Company may also retain an impartial third-party to conduct the investigation, if so desired.
Harassment in the workplace isn’t good. It creates poor morale, increased turnover and places the company in a precarious, liable position. The best course of action is for it not to happen in the first place, and to take all the steps necessary for its prevention.
ECG’s Referral Platform highlights many different companies and HR Consultants that can assist you with policy writing, employee relations, investigations and anything HR related.
Visit https://executivehrconsulting.com/hr-consultants to select the best Consultant for your company and for your needs.