Recognizing and dealing with workplace harassment

There are countless reasons why some people hate their jobs. The workload is heavy, but the pay is low. The commute is horrendous, or management is incompetent. Maybe you just don't get along with your boss or co-workers. It's a common story.

However, if the reason you don't like your job is because you are being mistreated by fellow employees or a supervisor, you may be dealing with workplace harassment.

Many kinds of hostility

Harassment in the workplace isn't always sexual in nature. In fact, there are many ways an employer or co-worker can create a hostile working environment. In Louisiana and all other states, the law protects you from harassment regarding:

  • Your race or national origin
  • Your religious affiliation
  • Your disability
  • Your gender
  • Your age

Other states protect workers from hostility regarding political leanings, marital status or smoking habits. A few have made it illegal to harass or discriminate against you if you have a criminal record or are overweight.

Crossing the line

Harassment is more than simply annoying behavior. The words or actions must be persistent and severe enough that you feel intimidated or badgered. If you avoid a particular person because you know he or she will make an embarrassing or threatening comment, you may be working in a hostile environment.

You may also be in a hostile work environment if harassment directed at someone else affects you or your ability to work affably with others. Some examples of harassment may include:

  • Sharing offensive pictures or jokes
  • Using racial slurs
  • Calling you names or ridiculing you
  • Assaulting you physically
  • Threatening physical harm or using intimidation

Hostility may also come from a supervisor if that person's comments or actions threaten your employment status or salary.

Taking steps toward a healthy work environment

If this kind of behavior happens once, it may not be harassment. However, if, as a reasonable person, you feel abused or intimidated to the point where you don't want to go to work, the first step is to try to resolve the problem yourself. You may speak directly to the offending person, or, if this makes you uncomfortable, talk to your supervisor or the Human Resources department.

In some cases, this will end the problem. The person may not have realized he or she was behaving inappropriately and intended no harm. If this is not the case, your supervisor may take steps to correct the issue.

However, if your complaint brings no changes to the hostile atmosphere at your job, your next step may be to contact an attorney. Attorneys experienced in employment law will listen to the details of your situation and advise you of the best course of action. With the caring representation of a legal advocate, you may not need to leave your job in order to find peace of mind.