Everyone deserves the right to a safe and productive work environment. You should never feel threatened, intimidated, or offended at a place you are obliged to spend time just because you need to earn a living. And when you are the victim of a negative workplace interaction or relationship, quitting shouldn’t be your only way out to safety or comfort. This is why employment law exists — to protect your rights as an employee in the workplace. If you have experienced any threat, intimidation, or offense while at work, you may have been (or may continue to be) a victim of workplace harassment. In order to fight it, you will need to know exactly what legally defines harassment at work, and what types and indications there are. With some details, you can be on your way to justice for what you have unrightfully endured.
What is Workplace Harassment in South Carolina?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission calls harassment “unwelcome conduct” that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.” There are two predominant forms of unlawful harassment. If, as a result of harassment toward one or more of these characteristics, a work environment becomes hostile, intimidating, or offensive, then the actions of the harasser are considered unlawful. It is also unlawful if the harassment results in a tangible employment decision made based on the employee’s acceptance or rejection of unwelcome sexual or romantic advances. Some examples of harassment include:
- Offensive jokes
- Physical assault
- Interference with work performance
- Spreading rumors
- Ignoring an employee’s presence
The person being harassed may not be the only victim. Anyone affected by the harassment can suffer in the workplace and is therefore subject to defense by the legal system.
What Are the Types of Workplace Harassment in South Carolina?
Harassment comes in many different forms, actions, and circumstances. To make the actions of the harasser more clearly prosecuted, you can identify their actions by fitting them into one or more of the following categories:
- Discriminatory: Defined by its intention, discriminatory harassment is the umbrella under which all harassment can be generally categorized. Discrimination is based on noticing the different race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or age a person may be and singling them out because of one or more of those characteristics.
- Personal: This is the adult equivalent to bullying. It includes inappropriate comments and jokes, or any in-person vocal ostracization or belittlement.
- Physical: This covers any threat of or actual physical action that makes the receiver feel uncomfortable or worse.
- Power: An individual who has power in the workplace — usually supervisors or managers — can combine physical, verbal, and psychological abuse to exercise their power over subordinates. This results in a form of bullying that derives from the essential fact that someone is lower in the office hierarchy than the harasser.
- Psychological: This is harassment that negatively impacts the mind of the employee. It can include ignoring the person’s presence or spreading rumors about him or her.
- Online: Online harassment includes any work-related conduct over the digital medium that is pointed and offensive toward an individual. It may even reach the point of personnel if the cyberbully shares personal information about the victim with other members of the workplace.
- Retaliation: This is characterized by a vengeful action. Essentially, an employee who was a victim of another employee’s harassment gets back at them by harassing them.
- Sexual: This harassment is sexual in nature and includes unwanted sexual advances, behavior, or conduct. It also includes quid pro quo — a coerced exchange of romantic or sexual services for some benefit regarding the workplace. It can be a form of blackmail in this regard as well, where the victim is threatened if they will not perform sexual services. Sexual harassment brings discomfort to the victim almost immediately and is taken seriously by the courts because of its potential to be dangerous and traumatic. One in four women experiences sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Verbal: Verbal harassment can be consistently mean or unpleasant behavior toward a person. It can occur in public or in private, and therefore has the potential to go unseen.
Keep in mind that these are only a few examples and simplified definitions. In truth, harassment is incredibly complicated and can cover a number of actions and situations. If someone’s actions are negatively affecting you at work. You consider looking to see if they fall into one of the above categories.
What Can You Do if You Are Harassed in the Workplace in South Carolina?
If you feel you are the victim at work, you need to take action immediately. Don’t wait for it to get worse to feel like you can speak out against it. If you feel bold, you can point it out to your harasser. The idea that he or she may be punished for his or her actions toward you may convince the person to stop. If the person is violent or that method doesn’t work for you, file a complaint with your human resources department. You can also become an advocate for safe interactions in the workplace by insisting on a policy update and educational materials about harassment. If you have been injured, traumatized, or have left or lost your job due to harassment, get legal advice right away. Our employment lawyers can help you protect your rights and receive proper restitution for your suffering. Don’t wait — advocate for yourself in the workplace.