Harassment is a severe problem in the workplace, harming employees and the organization overall. No matter how minor, an incident can negatively affect employee morale, productivity and the employer’s reputation. Aside from the victim, this misconduct can impact bystanders who witnessed it, fostering hostility and mistrust, especially if they believe the leadership does nothing to address these incidents.
Most companies have anti-harassment policies used to investigate and determine what disciplinary actions can be appropriate. Still, the harassment can be so severe that it warrants legal action. It can be unlawful if it meets the following conditions:
- The harassment is repetitive or habitual, making it an existing condition in the workplace that employees must undergo.
- The behavior is severe, impacting the workplace’s environment.
- It puts employees in a difficult position where they suffer intimidation, abuse or hostility.
If the harassment qualifies as unlawful, employees can take legal action against the harasser and the employer’s inaction, depending on the circumstances. Most mild forms of misconduct might not pass as unlawful but should still be taken seriously. Organizations should comply with anti-harassment practices, enforcing internal regulations and measures no matter how minor the case can be.
Exercising and protecting employee rights
Anti-harassment policies also have provisions protecting employees against retaliation after they file a complaint against a harasser. Any adverse employment decisions made as a response to reporting or testifying against harassment can be unlawful based on the situation.
In any scenario, employees should know their rights, how to exercise them and what laws protect them. This information can be crucial for employees, helping them proactively collaborate with their employers in keeping the workplace safe and secure.