How to Handle Harassment at Work

Know Your Rights When It Comes to Harassment on the Job

Employees can be harassed in a variety of ways at work. While sexual harassment garners most of the attention, many non-sexual types of harassment can, and do, often occur on the job.

It's important to understand harassment in the workplace because it can affect you and impact your career in different ways. Knowing what constitutes harassment can help you spot it and handle it if it happens to you, or even better, help you prevent it from happening in the first place.

This includes recognizing what qualifies as harassment, how to file a harassment claim, and what to do if you lose your job because you've reported harassment.

01
Types of Harassment

Man with hand on female coworker, as she looks on unapprovingly
PeopleImages.com/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Many types of harassment can occur on the job. Workplace harassment, whether verbal or physical, based on sex, religion, or race, is unlawful and a form of discrimination.

The definition of harassment can vary among states. A Florida court deemed "fat jokes" offensive, and in Wisconsin and New York, it's illegal to harass employees based on their criminal record. The issue of defining harassment can be a tricky subject. 

02
Sexual Harassment

harassment at work
Richard Bowden/E+/Getty Images

Sexual harassment in the workplace includes any uninvited comments, conduct, or behavior regarding sex, gender, or sexual orientation. It also qualifies as a form of discrimination

Sexual harassment does not have to occur between co-workers of the opposite sex. It's also not limited to touching or spoken words. Obscene images and videos, emails, and even staring in a suggestive manner can be deemed offensive.

03
Non-Sexual Harassment

two women looking at phone and laughing
PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

Harassment in the workplace can also consist of other actions regarding religion, race, age, gender, or skin color, for example. Actions involving these subject matter areas qualify as harassment if they interfere with an employee's success or create a hostile work environment.

Non-sexual harassment can include offensive language regarding a person's physical or mental disabilities or differences. Pointing out or continually alluding that someone's too fat, too old, or too stupid can be deemed as harassment. Creating a hostile work environment is considered harassment.

04
How to File a Harassment Claim

woman yelling at man in conference room
Jetta Productions/Blend Images/Getty Images

If you feel like you've been a victim of workplace harassment, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Before you file the claim, educate yourself to ensure that the incident actually counts as harassment.

For various reasons, people make many false claims of harassment. Therefore, you must know the facts and correct steps needed to file a claim. This helps legitimate cases proceed and find an appropriate satisfactory resolution.

05
How to Handle Illegal or Inappropriate Interview Questions

two women in job interview
Mediaphotos/E+/Getty Images

Did you know that an interviewer cannot legally ask you certain questions when you're applying for a job? Questions about race, gender, religion, and other personal aspects of your life are prohibited by both state and federal laws.

To protect yourself from potential harassing questions, you need to understand these illegal or inappropriate inquiries while searching for a job. Certain questions may not only be against the law but can be a key sign that the company is not a good fit for you.

06
How to Resign From Your Job

Pensive woman in front of computer
Philipp Nemenz/Photodisc/Getty Images

Even if you're being harassed, it's important to resign as professionally as you can from your job. Plan your resignation carefully because it could have legal consequences if you file a harassment claim. 

You need to give adequate notice to your employer, write a formal resignation letter, and be prepared to move on prior to submitting your resignation. With these steps in place, you can set yourself up for success and make it easier to move beyond this troubling time into a new and better work environment.

07
How to Handle a Lay-Off

Man holding pink slip
Tetra / Getty Images

You might find yourself the subject of a lay-off after filing a claim. The best way to survive a layoff involves first, finding out about any benefits to which you are entitled, by speaking with your employer's human resources department.

You should also be informed about your employee rights, during a layoff, so you know what you should expect when you lose your job. Even if you still have your job, it makes sense to have a plan in place because, as too many people know, job security isn't guaranteed.

08
What to Do When You're Fired

Man holding box with office supplies
Glow Images, Inc/Getty Images

Did your harassment claim lead you to be fired from your job? It can be very stressful, and you probably have a lot of questions about what you can or should do next.

First, understand your employee rights when an employer fires you, or you think you will be let go. If the company wrongfully discharges you, you'll need to take certain steps to find out what remedies or recourse may be available.

09
How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Last Job

Man in job interview
Image Source / Getty Images

If you have left or lost your job because of harassment, be prepared to answer questions about it. Take the time to review the common interview questions you will most likely be asked regarding your last job and why you left.

If you approach the subject appropriately, you will look better in the eyes of the interviewer. Questions about harassment, and why you left your job, can be difficult, but learning how others would answer them can be of great help.

Concluding Thoughts

Companies are required by law to have policies in place for educating employees on workplace harassment. However, harassment can still occur and should be recognized and dealt with properly. Protect yourself and your career by learning about the various types of harassment, your rights, and the proper process for handling an occurrence.