Workplace harassment can make you feel powerless and like you don’t belong. You may worry about your job or even your safety. Harassment can be visual, physical or verbal. When coworkers or supervisors target you for harassment at work, they may be violating your rights. State and federal employment laws protect certain groups from harassment and discrimination. Your employer cannot harass or discriminate against you based on your:
- National origin
- Military status
Unfortunately, the law does not protect you from a boss or coworker acting like a jerk. The law only protects you from harassment based on one of these protected categories.
Although we most commonly hear about sexual harassment, any discriminatory actions that create a hostile work environment are illegal. If you think your harassment is illegal, you do have options.
Take the next step
Many people in your situation wonder what they should do. You may be uncomfortable confronting the person harassing you, afraid it will only make the situation worse, but you should make sure the harasser knows you do not welcome their behavior.
If the harassment continues, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends these steps you can take:
- Does your company have a harassment policy? If so, follow the steps for reporting the harassment.
- If your company does not have a policy, talk to a supervisor. If your supervisor is the person harassing you, you can go to their manager or supervisor.
- Bring a claim. You have several options for bringing a claim against your employer, including through the EEOC, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission or through the court system.
Here are some other tips for protecting yourself and building your case:
- Know your rights. Your company cannot legally retaliate against you for reporting the harassment. Retaliation can come in many forms, including lowering your pay, reducing your work hours, firing you or demoting you.
- Record your harassment. Do your best to keep track of instances of harassment, even if no evidence exists and you simply note the incident for yourself. A single instance of harassment usually is not enough to show a hostile work environment, but showing a pattern of behavior is helpful.
- If you are physically or sexually assaulted at work, file a police report.
Often, the best thing you can do is find professional legal counsel to help you figure out how to best handle your situation. Many groups and resources exist to help you. You do not have to go through this alone.