Recently, the media has paid a great deal of attention to workplace harassment issues, thanks to the #MeToo movement. Workplace harassment issues have been with us for a long time, although they are getting more attention now. Often, workers find it daunting to go through an internal complaint process at work. They may be afraid of employer retaliation. Sylvia Stanciu, a New York employment attorney at Phillips and Associates, created a guide for Bit Rebels to help workers identify harassment and decide how to address it appropriately.
In the guide, Ms. Stanciu discussed five kinds of illegal workplace harassment. Workplace harassment may take the form of sexual harassment, racial harassment, disability harassment, bullying, or violence.
One of the most widespread forms of workplace harassment is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can be subtle, involving unwelcome compliments. However, it can also be blatant, such as in cases involving assault. Other types of harassment include unwanted sexual advances, posting sexual imagery in the workplace, sexual jokes, and sexual touching.
A supervisor’s power over an employee can place pressure on the subordinate to submit to sexual advances. A supervisor placing pressure on an employee to provide sexual favors for employment advancement is illegal quid pro quo sexual harassment.
It is crucial to notify your employer and HR about harassment so that they can try to stop it. If you are mistreated for providing this notification, you may also have a claim for retaliation. If harassment continues after notification, or your employer is the harasser, or your employer retaliates against you, you should discuss your situation with an attorney.
Racial harassment is another form of harassment that can adversely affect your ability to do well on the job. This type of harassment could take the form of remarks about your race or skin tone or offensive jokes about a certain racial or ethnic group. Similarly, an employer’s refusal to promote employees from a certain racial or ethnic group because they are hostile to that group is a type of race discrimination. Employees should be able to move forward on the job irrespective of their racial or ethnic background. It is important to document any racial slurs by complaining to the employer or an HR representative.
Employment laws also protect you if you are disabled, whether you are actually disabled or simply perceived to be disabled. Your supervisor or coworker should not make jokes or offensive gestures that mock workers who seem to be disabled or who are disabled. Additionally, if you are a disabled employee, you may need a workplace accommodation. For example, you may need a standing desk to avoid chronic back pain. You are entitled to ask HR or your employer about a reasonable accommodation. The employer may make requests for information and medical documentation to determine which accommodations would be appropriate. If your employer denies you an accommodation, you should call an attorney to talk about your potential remedies.
Sometimes workplace harassment takes the form of workplace bullying. Bullying could include ostracizing conduct, humiliating requests, body shaming, or rude comments that generate a hostile work environment. If somebody harasses you in one of these ways, you can complain to your employer or HR. To have a viable bullying claim, the conduct needs to arise out of your race, gender, national origin, disability, religion, or other protected characteristic.
Another type of harassment is workplace violence. This could include threats of violence, gestures, destruction of property, hitting, kicking, or shoving. Often, workplaces have cameras, and you should know where they are for safety purposes. It is important that any workplace violence is immediately documented and that all witnesses are questioned soon afterward, while their memories are fresh. If the actions are criminal, your employer or you should call the police.
Consult a Dedicated Employment Attorney
At Phillips & Associates, our attorneys have experience fighting for workers who have been harassed. We handle lawsuits on behalf of people in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, and in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Call us at (866) 229-9441 or contact us through our online form.