Harassment at work is a form of employee discrimination. It has many forms with varying degrees of seriousness and legal implication. While it is a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights act, it can often be difficult to prove in a court of law. This can lead to unanswered questions. Below are five of the most common workplace harassment questions.
Q. What are some types of workplace harassment?
Harassment at work includes sexual, racial, religious, and age-related harassment. The fear of losing a job keeps many employees from reporting harassment. Many employers have what is called an “at will” employment. If you are an “at will” employee, technically you can be terminated for no reason at all. Since this is usually your word vs. their word, it becomes difficult to prove. However, if you can prove the harassment – possibly with witnesses or pictures – this could be an important factor in your case.
Q. What is the difference between workplace harassment vs. a hostile working environment?
Harassment at work is any type of unwelcome action taken by either one employee towards another, or by members of management to subordinates. Management includes supervisors, the boss/owner or any person in a position of authority. Any unwelcome action towards an employee that prohibits the employee from performing job duties or makes the employee feel violated or uneasy can be considered workplace harassment.
A hostile work environment is when an employee experiences acts that provoke fear of going to work. Often, these acts are offensive intimidation initiated by the harasser. Yelling, being rude, and creating an environment full of severe stress results in a hostile work environment. Usually, hostile work situations are created by a boss or manager to provoke an employee or employees to quit their job.
Q. Are verbal threats considered harassment?
Verbal threats are considered a form of workplace harassment in West Virginia and many other states. However, until the harasser actually acts on the threats, you would only have a civil recourse and it does not become a criminal offense.
Q. Is slander the same as harassment?
Depending on the situation, slander is often considered a form of workplace harassment, especially if it was sexually oriented. Heinous lies, verbal attacks and rumors can discredit a person and cause not only stress in the workplace, but in his or her personal life as well. The law for slander differs from state to state. However, if you can prove the accusations, you may also have a case.
Q. I have been accused of sexual harassment at work; can my employer reprimand me without an investigation?
Employers are bound by most states to show that some sort of investigation was made in the event that an employee was accused of sexual or any type of workplace harassment. Employers can reprimand an employee through a verbal and written warning to be placed in the employee’s permanent record. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious situation and can have a lasting impact on your career.
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