Our society has sustained a marked evolution over the years. In the employment aspect, many workers were victims of harassment and bullying and had to endure this situation because the law did not condemn this behavior. Currently, workplace harassment is a form of discrimination and is illegal according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Legal Rights by Federal and New York State Law Regarding Discrimination
- Applicable federal law prohibits harassment in the workplace based on race, color, religion, gender (including pregnancy), place of origin, age (over 40), or disability. The law applies to companies with more than 15 employees, or 20 in the case of harassment based on age.
- New York state law expanded protection to apply to employers with more than 4 employees, decreased the age of protection to employees over 18, and lastly, included protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
What Constitutes Employment Harassment?
Employment harassment behavior affects men as well as women, and the originator may be a manager or supervisor, co-worker, or agent related with the workplace. The behavior may manifest itself against the protected groups mentioned above, or through degrading jokes, insults, physical and/or verbal aggression, and threats and intimidation, among other things. These behaviors must be disruptive to the person who is a victim, to the point of causing anxiety even when thinking about going to work. The behavior is illegal if a reasonable person in this situation considers this behavior to be so persistent and intolerable that the work environment is a hostile, intimidating, or abusive workplace. The victim feels that this situation is so severe that it affects his or her work performance.
Why Report Harassment Cases?
There are many reasons for reporting workplace harassment cases, but the most important ones are as follows:
- It is illegal: any employee in this situation is obligated to report it. The law was created precisely for the necessity of protecting certain groups from cruel and closed-minded people who obstruct and abuse workers who are trying to earn an honest living. It is a social, moral, and ethical duty.
- It escalates: Never assume that this type of behavior stops if one does not pay attention to it. On the contrary, it tends to escalate quickly and consistently. In many cases, the behavior goes from offensive jokes to verbal and later physical abuse. You can prevent a tragedy by reporting this type of behavior or avoid being the victim.
- You have protection: Employers are legally obligated to act once they are notified. Furthermore, it is strictly prohibited to act against the person making the report.
- It affects work performance: Harassment victims many times exhibit an isolation and lack of interest that could be negatively interpreted. You may be fired for not performing your work or for not growing professionally in your job.
How to Report Workplace Harassment
The company where you work should have policies that inform you of the steps to take if you are the victim of workplace harassment. Usually, you must notify your supervisor in writing of the situation you are going through. If the supervisor is the perpetrator of this conduct, you must notify the human resources department. Write a detailed report of incidents including dates, conversations, and people present. Remember that you are required to give reasonable time for the company to take action.