So far, we’ve gone through some of the major laws prohibiting harassment and discrimination. But what do the terms used to describe these behaviors mean?
Starting with harassment:
Harassment is a term used to refer to behavior that would be offensive or harmful to a reasonable person.
Harassment can create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment that impairs morale, interferes with the work effectiveness of employees, and undermines the employment relationship.
This is why harassment-free workplaces are better for everyone.
Harassment includes but is not limited to:
unsolicited remarks, gestures or physical contact;
display or circulation of written materials or pictures degrading to people on the basis of their gender, race, ethnicity or religion; and
verbal abuse or insults directed at or about any person(s) because of race, color, gender, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, pregnancy, veteran status, disability or genetic information, or any other status protected by law.
Harassment as an Abuse of Power
Sexual harassment, indeed any form of harassment, can be seen as an abuse of power.
The harasser has, or (consciously or unconsciously) aims to be perceived as having, power over the person subjected to the harassment.
Without obvious consequences to the harassment, perceived power can convert to effective power, thereby continuing and reinforcing the harassment.
Consider that harassment IS:
Behavior that demeans another person/other people
Behavior that makes other people feel small, weak, or threatened
Defined by how the behavior is perceived, regardless of how it was intended
Also note that harassment IS NOT:
Fun or funny
A way to show someone that you like them, are interested in them, or are attracted to them
Limited to touching
Limited to locations owned and operated by the employer