Harassment occurs through words, conduct, or actions that appear to serve no legitimate purpose but to irritate, alarm, or cause emotional distress for the recipient. A large amount of focus has been placed on sexual harassment, especially in the workplace. With more awareness, harassment of all levels can hopefully be stopped. Many people that are victims of harassment often feel trapped or unsure of what they can do to get out of the circumstances.
Harassment can be against a woman or a man and the victim is not always of the opposite sex. It can also be considered harassment if the person is not the intended victim but is affected in any way by the offensive conduct. The conduct must be unwelcome to be considered harassment.
If the threatened individual(s) notify the harasser to stop the conduct and it is not stopped, the victim should take the next step in putting an end to the harassment. At the workplace, the victim should submit an employer complaint about the harassment, or any other policy method that is available. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates allegations of sexual harassment (EEOC).
The EEOC will review the entire record of the alleged harassment, including the circumstances surrounding the offensive conduct. Harassment is often about power, control, and intimidation. In a 1993 Supreme Court Decision, it was determined that a plaintiff alleging sexual harassment does not need to demonstrate concrete psychological harm, rather show the conduct created sufficient evidence of hostile or abusive working environment.
In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that employers are “vicariously liable” for harassment by supervisors. It was also noted that if the harassment did not result in a tangible job action, the employer could raise an affirmative defense that it exercised “reasonable care” to prevent and correct the harassment and the employee unreasonably failed to use its complaint procedure.
For many workers, harassment allegations can be a very difficult complaint to bring up, especially if it is against a supervisor. Individuals may fear their position at the company will be threatened and fear humiliation that may arise from harassment cases. Workplaces should try to prevent instances of harassment from occurring by stressing the disapproval of inappropriate behavior and notifying employees of their rights should instances of harassment occur.
It is always advised to contact a harassment attorney to ensure the individual is aware of his/her legal rights and options. Even if the harassment complaints appear to be looked into by the employer or place of which the complaints were directed, it is best to make sure procedures and policies are being followed and that the victim avoids further detriment. It is important for harassment victims to realize they have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Support groups and counselors exist for harassment victims.