What Is Workplace Harassment & What to Do

Harassment in the workplace is a significant issue that affects countless individuals on a daily basis. For federal employees, who are all held to high standards of conduct and ethics, experiencing harassment at work can be incredibly distressing and detrimental to their professional and personal well-being. Whether it manifests as bullying, discrimination, or any other form of mistreatment, workplace harassment not only creates a toxic work environment but also violates an individual's rights and dignity.

If you are currently facing harassment in your federal workplace, know that you are not alone, and there are steps you can take. In this blog post, we will delve into how to recognize workplace harassment within the federal government context and provide actionable tips for addressing it effectively.

Impact on Employees & the Workplace at Large

Workplace harassment can leave deep scars on employees and negatively impact their lives in many ways. Whether it's verbal abuse, physical violence, or sexual harassment, the effects can be devastating. Employees who experience harassment may feel ashamed, powerless, and isolated, leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Typical forms of workplace harassment include the following:

  • Verbal Harassment: Includes derogatory comments, insults, or threats based on an individual's race, gender, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
  • Physical Harassment: Involves unwanted physical contact, intimidation, or any form of violence.
  • Sexual Harassment: Includes unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, suggestive comments, or any other type of sexual misconduct.
  • Cyberbullying: Occurs when colleagues use digital platforms to insult, intimidate, or demean an individual.
  • Discrimination: Occurs when individuals are treated unfavorably due to their race, gender, age, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation.
  • Retaliation: Consists of any adverse employment action taken as revenge against an employee who has reported harassment or discrimination.
  • Quid Pro Quo Harassment: Occurs when job benefits, promotions, or even continued employment are made contingent on the submission to sexual advances or other inappropriate conduct.

Employers must take proactive measures to prevent harassment, educate employees on their rights, and create a safe and supportive work environment for all. If you or someone you know is dealing with harassment at work, speaking up and seeking help is important.

Steps to Take

Workplace harassment is, unfortunately, a common issue that many federal employees face. If you ever find yourself experiencing or witnessing such behavior, there are certain steps you can take.

Firstly, it's essential to document any incidents that occur, including times, dates, and other relevant details. This record will be an invaluable asset if you choose to file a formal complaint or legal action. Relatedly, it's highly advisable to consult with a federal employment law attorney experienced in workplace harassment cases. An experienced attorney can guide you through the complex legal landscape, helping you with various tasks.

It's also essential to report the harassment to your supervisor or the appropriate department within your organization (your attorney can help you with this process, such as drafting written communications, etc.).

If the harassment continues or the response is unsatisfactory, you may need to escalate your complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Your attorney can guide you in the appropriate steps for your situation.

You are also encouraged to seek support from friends, family, or a therapist to cope with the emotional impact of workplace harassment. Remember that harassment is never your fault; nobody deserves to be treated poorly in the workplace.

By taking action and reporting the behavior, you can help create a safer and more respectful workplace for everyone. Contact The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, to discuss your situation and learn about potential legal remedies.