Harassment in the Workplace: A Matter HRD Should Worry About

Jason Hanold knows that one of the most delicate situations any Human Resources Department (HRD) has to deal with is developing and managing policies and handling allegations of harassment. Bylaw, according to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, companies in the U.S. must be committed to providing a workplace free of discrimination, interference, restriction or coercion exercised against any employee because of its age, sex, race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Harassment in the workplace is commonly understood as any type of behavior that may be upsetting to someone and it is characteristically repetitive. In the legal sense, this behavior appears to be disturbing or threatening to the victim. Harassment includes any improper conduct, comment or display directed at another employee and that a reasonable person would know is unwelcome. It is related to reproachable conduct, comments or display made either once or many times, that demeans or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment to an employee.

The American law forbids any type of harassment or discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other conditions of employment.

Importance of the HRD

HRD of any company should openly explain to all the employees the meaning and types of harassment and the procedure on how to handle them in case they occur. The department needs to make sure that harassment is being taken seriously by all member of the organization and that that employees understand that they have an obligation to report harassment concerns to their supervisor or the Human Resources Department. If a complaint is filed, the HRD must treat it confidentially and start an investigation in secure files.

Companies must take all possible steps to prevent harassment from occurring and promptly correct any unapproved behavior. Prevention is the crucial goal. Successfully investigating harassment complaints and quick intervention by HRD can help companies send a clear message throughout the workplace that harassment is not tolerated.

Types of Harassment

Harassment includes a hazardous environment where aggressive behavior or comments, not necessarily directed at anyone in particular, are persistent and have a negative effect on morale. There are different types of harassment which have been identified by HR professionals, such as Sexual Harassment, Abuse of authority, Racial Harassment, National Origin Harassment, Religious Harassment, Age Harassment, and Disability Harassment.

Sexual harassment:

This type of harassment refers to any conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature, that may happen once or in a continuous series of incidents that might reasonably be expected to cause offence or humiliation to any employee; sexual harassment may be reasonably perceived by the employee in a situation where an opportunity for training or promotion is involved.

Abuse of Authority:

This form of harassment occurs when a person uses the power and authority given by its position to endanger an employee’s job, demoralize the performance of that job, threaten the economic livelihood of the employee, and in any way have a negative influence on the career of the employee. It includes verbal or physical intimidation, threats, blackmail or coercion.

Racial Harassment:

This consist in the targeting of an individual because of their race or ethnicity. It may include words, deeds, and actions that are specifically meant to make the victim feel humiliated due to their race or ethnicity. There are many racial harassment situations that involve unwelcome behavior from coworkers. For this, it is important to notice that employers must be diligent enough to make sure that their Human Resources Department policies are strong enough to prevent and correct any type of harassment.

National Origin Discrimination and Harassment:

National origin discrimination involves treating people hostilely because of their origin – if they are from a particular country or part of the world-, because of ethnicity or accent, because look like the belonged to a certain ethnic background, or because they are married to a person of a certain national origin.

Religious Harassment:

Religious discrimination involves objectionable behavior that implies mistreating an individual because of his or her religious beliefs. The U.S law protects every religion that has sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Age Harassment:

This type of harassment involved treating someone less favorably because of his or her age, particularly after 40. Being illegal for employers to favor workers because of their age.

Disability Harassment:

Disability discrimination happens when an employer treats a qualified individual with a disability unfavorably because it has a disability. This type of harassment occurs when a covered employer or other entity treats an employee less favorably because it has a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory or minor.

HRD must guarantee that an employee with a disability has a reasonable accommodation and receives a fair treatment despite its disability.