workplace harassment

August 22, 2020

Incidents of workplace harassment are commonly heard, such incidents can have an adverse impact on a good job, making the work environment toxic and unbearable.

Most of the time such harassment incidents are not reported as the victims are unsure what actually qualifies as workplace harassment and what they can do to stop it or fight it.

People can be subjected to different types of workplace harassment while at work. Harassment is any form of undesirable or unpleasant conduct by a manager, coworker, business associate, or customer. Depending on the circumstances, this form of offensive behavior may be unlawful and punishable.

What is considered harassment in the Workplace? What is the definition of Workplace harassment?


Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal regulations, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.” Source: U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Workplace harassment takes place when an individual is ill-treated and shown hostility or is a target of unacceptable conduct from a coworker, supervisor, or business associate. A person, who is responsible for workplace harassment, behaves in a certain manner with the intent to make the victim feel uncomfortable.

Legally speaking any kind of Harassment in the workplace is a form of employment discrimination, violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act states that no employee or an individual seeking employment of a company having a staff strength of 15 employees or more can be discriminated based on their religion, sex, race, or age.

There are several federal and state laws that also protect employees against harassment based on their gender, marital status, origin, disability, etc.

What are the types of Workplace harassment?

If one has a thorough understanding of workplace harassment, then it helps to deal with the experience and filing a harassment complaint or workplace harassment lawsuit. To have a thorough understanding of the topic, it is important to know what are the types of workplace harassment.

There are 7 key types of workplace harassment which are commonly witnessed in organizations.

  1. Discriminatory Harassment
  2. Personal Harassment
  3. Physical Harassment
  4. Psychological Harassment
  5. Sexual Harassment
  6. Third-Party Harassment
  7. Verbal Harassment


  1. Discriminatory Harassment:

Any form of workplace harassment that happens on the basis of protected classes like race, sexuality, age, gender, religion, and disability are considered discriminatory harassment. Discriminatory harassment is considered unlawful and is punishable by law.  The common types of workplace harassment which are discriminatory are:

  • Racial Harassment

Any person being harassed or victimized because of his/her race, skin color, country of origin, culture is considered as racial harassment. It includes passing racial slurs or explicit slurs on the person’s physical attributes like hair type or color or skin color, cracking jokes related to a race, passing humiliating comments, showing intolerance, etc.

  • Gender Harassment

Gender-based harassment involves discriminatory behavior towards a person because of their gender. People have preconceived notions about what are the roles of men and women in society and what jobs should be done by them. Judging a person’s work or harassing them because of their gender is unlawful.

For example, a male nurse is harassed or disregarded for doing what is perceived to be a women’s job. Women growing up the corporate ladder are not accepted easily as they are perceived to be less capable.

  • Religious Harassment

Religious harassment involves showing hatred, disgust, and disrespect towards a person because of their religion or religious beliefs. Some instance of religious harassment includes showing intolerance toward religious traditions or customs, passing offensive religious jokes, pressurizing someone to convert their religion.

  • Disability-Based Harassment

Disability-based harassment is directed towards people suffering from any form of disability or is acquainted with a disabled person or people. The harassment involves harmful teasing, passing patronizing comments or isolating them.

  • Sexual-Orientation-Based Harassment

Sexual-orientation based harassment involves harassing or demeaning victims because their sexual orientation is different from others. People of any sexual-orientation whether heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual may become victims of sexual-orientation based harassment, depending on their field of work.

  • Age-Based Harassment

Individuals above 40 years of age are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to promote the employment of older people and reduce any instance of age-based harassment.

A victim of age-based harassment may be isolated or teased or criticized simply because of their age.

  1. Personal Harassment:

Personal harassment does not fall under the protected classes like discrimination of the basis of race, gender, or religion. Personal harassment is more to do with personally hurting or harassing someone in the form of bullying. It is not illegal but can have a deep impact on the victim psychologically.

Some of the examples of Personal Harassment include passing inappropriate comments or cracking offensive, derogatory jokes, humiliating the person with critical remarks, or intimidating behavior. Ostracizing or alienating the victim.

  1. Physical Harassment:

Workplace violence is termed as physical harassment; it involves any form of physical attack or threats or any kind of assault. Physical gestures like slapping the back or shoving can sometimes blur the line between appropriate behavior or unacceptable.

In such instances, it is the recipient who will decide whether the behavior is acceptable or it makes them uncomfortable.

It is important for companies to clearly define that line and have in place a fixed set of codes of conduct and policies to define physical harassment. Some of the common forms of behavior which can be considered physical harassment are:

  • Threatening with the intent to inflict harm
  • Physical attack like hitting, pushing, kicking
  • Demonstrating intimidating behavior for e.g. shaking fists angrily or banging the table loudly
  • Destroying property or throwing things with the intention to intimidate


  1. Psychological Harassment:

Psychological harassment is that kind of harassment that negatively impacts a person psychologically. The negative impact on a victim psychologically often ends up adversely impacting their physical well being, social life, and work life.

Some of the examples of Psychological harassment involve isolating a person or not acknowledging their presence, ridiculing the victim’s thoughts or ideas, dishonoring or spreading false rumors about the victim, opposing everything the victim says or does on purpose.

  1. Sexual Harassment:

Sexual harassment includes unwanted, offensive, and embarrassing behavior which is sexual in nature. It can be direct or indirect, verbal, or non-verbal, it does not have to be physical in nature always. Sexual harassment at the workplace considered unlawful discrimination and is illegal.

In other forms of workplace harassment, it may take some time before the severity increases, impacting the psychological well being of the victim and making it difficult for the victim to work in that hostile environment. In the case of sexual harassment, the victim may be affected and traumatized psychologically and/or physically immediately.

Some of the examples of Sexual Harassment at the workplace include sharing pornography, posting or sending sexually suggesting messages or posters, passing comments or jokes which are sexual in nature, inappropriate touching or making sexual gestures, and finally invading the victim’s personal space sexually.

  1. Third-Party Harassment:

Third-party harassment is perpetrated by someone who is from outside the company or organization.  When people like business vendors, suppliers; customers harass or intimidate the lower-level professionals like salespeople, cashiers, receptionists to get their work done or to send a message to the higher authorities, it is considered as third-party harassment.

Since third party harassment is not carried out within the organization, most of the time it goes unnoticed and is often tried to be covered up. Regardless of who is responsible for harassing the employee, it is the duty and responsibility of the employer to take corrective measures to stop the unwanted, unacceptable behavior.

  1. Verbal Harassment

When a supervisor or coworker is persistently obnoxious, discourteous, and rude to other employees/ s, it is considered as verbal harassment. Unlike discriminatory harassment, verbal harassment is generally not considered illegal; it is considered a result of personality conflicts that have been escalated.

Since it is not considered unlawful unless it is aimed at victims from a protected class, most of the time cases of verbal harassment go unnoticed and unresolved. Behaviors like yelling, shouting, insulting a victim fall under verbal harassment.

How do I complain about Harassment? How to sue for Workplace harassment?

If you are a victim of workplace harassment of any kind, you should report it.  Check whether your company has any guidelines of a defined policy on harassment.

If yes then follow the guidelines mentioned and report the harassment. If the company has no set guidelines, you should get in touch with the company’s HR department and report to them.

In the USA, there are state and federal civil rights laws which will protect you against any type of workplace harassment. If you are being harassed or victimized at your job by your supervisors, coworkers, business associates, or clients you can file a workplace harassment lawsuit.

Any form of harassment whether discriminatory, physical or sexual; you can file a workplace harassment lawsuit in the federal court.

Protect your rights; Contact a Professional workplace harassment lawyer

It is completely unlawful if your company tries to retaliate against you for filing a workplace harassment complaint. Companies try to suppress the complaint to safeguard their image or reputation.

There are instances where companies try to demote the person who reported harassment or transfer them to less desirable places, they are not considered for good assignments.

In such situations, it is best to consult a professional workplace harassment lawyer, who can represent you both against the harassing party and the company who is trying to protect the offender.

A workplace harassment lawyer can guide you and give you legal advice that can help evaluate your claim. If you or your family member has been a victim of workplace harassment, contact us at (951) 461-2387.

We at Khashan Law Firm can help you with filing a complaint with your employer and also filing a workplace harassment lawsuit in the court if required.