Employee Relations

3 Forms of Workplace Harassment — And How They Impact DEI

Explore the different types of workplace harassment, how they interfere with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies, and how LaborSoft can help.

forms of workplace harassment

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has become increasingly important in the workplace as employers strive to create more diverse and inclusive environments for compliance and employee relations. Employers must take the correct steps to promote DEI and eliminate discrimination and harassment, which can take many forms, from outright hostility to more passive means of exclusion. Below are three of the primary types of harassment at work — and how to deal with the employee relations issues that arise from these situations.

1. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment involves speech, acts, overtures, or pressure of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can be a one-time incident or it can be an ongoing pattern of behavior. It may involve suggestive innuendos or direct sexual comments toward another worker, but it could also be more subtle, in the form of remarks about the way a co-worker is dressed or the way they look.

Pressure to go on a date or engage in sexual activity, as well as unwanted gifts, calls, messages, or attention, can also be a form of sexual harassment. In some cases, a person may find their job security or physical safety threatened.

These examples of workplace harassment come at a time when women are fighting for workplace equality in pay and responsibility. Such acts undermine an employee’s feeling of safety and security at work and limit their perceived ability to advance in the workplace.

It is important to note, however, that sexual harassment is not exclusively committed by males against females. Sexual harassment can be committed by men, women, or genderqueer employees against any other employee. The behavior is what marks the harassment.

2. Physical Harassment

Physical harassment involves threats of harm or other threatening behavior toward another employee. Physical contact between two people is not required for it to be an example of this type of workplace harassment. Destroying property, throwing things, and even alleged “playful” behavior like slapping, shoving, or arm punching can be physical harassment. If the victim is offended, is injured, or feels uncomfortable, the behavior is unacceptable.

Because of its nature, physical harassment can be easier to prove, but if the victim retaliates, the situation can become muddied. In some cases, physical harassment can be third-party harassment when a customer, contractor, or client commits the harassment.

3. Psychological Harassment

Psychological harassment is among the more common forms of workplace harassment and is possibly the most damaging to DEI efforts because it can be difficult to prove. It is a form of bullying involving words and behaviors, including even nonverbal overtures such as nasty looks as well as text messages or emails.

Certainly, belittling or berating employees is a form of psychological harassment, which may happen publicly or behind closed doors. Other forms, however, include excluding employees from events and meetings, spreading rumors about them, or talking about them behind their backs.

Psychological harassment can be extremely damaging to minority and underserved populations who have traditionally strived to be seen in the workplace. It can reveal undercurrents of bigotry, racism, and sexism that undermine efforts to create an open and diverse workplace. This example of workplace harassment can also cross over with sexual harassment if the psychological harassment includes subtle or overt comments or behavior of that sort.

Take Workplace Harassment Seriously

Workplace harassment scenarios are some of the most serious employee relations issues an HR department can face, and they can completely undermine worker confidence as well as efforts toward Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Harassment is a direct threat to a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and safe workplace. It can also be extremely subtle, which is why HR managers should never ignore employee complaints.

Harassment in the workplace can also lead to litigation, which can be devastating to your company. LaborSoft is dedicated to helping you improve employee relations across the board. We use case-based methods to help you keep careful track of potential incidents and remain in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws. Work with our expert team to leverage intuitive documentation software and build out DEI policies and processes that will improve your workplace overall. For more information on protecting your employees and organization, get in touch today.


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