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My Coworker Won’t Stop Harassing Me: What You Can Do

by | May 10, 2024 | Sexual Harassment

My Coworker Will Not Stop Harassing Me

My Coworker Won’t Stop Harassing Me: What You Can Do

Sexual harassment. Racial slurs. Offensive jokes. Unfortunately, the comfort and safety we expect at work can be shattered by unwelcome advances and inappropriate behavior from colleagues. If you’re facing coworker harassment, know this: you are not alone, and there are steps you can take.

This blog post explores what constitutes coworker harassment, your options for addressing it, and how to protect yourself throughout the process.

Understanding Coworker Harassment: It’s Not Just About Sex

Coworker harassment can encompass a wide range of unwelcome conduct that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. Here are some common examples:

  • Verbal Harassment: This includes offensive jokes, slurs, insults, threats, or sexual comments about your appearance or body.
  • Visual Harassment: Displaying or distributing offensive images, posters, or cartoons with sexual or discriminatory undertones.
  • Unwanted Physical Contact: Unwelcome touching, pinching, groping, or invasion of personal space.
  • Cyberbullying: Sending offensive or threatening emails, texts, or messages on social media platforms.
  • Social Isolation: Being deliberately excluded from work events or conversations, or attempts to damage your reputation with colleagues.

It’s important to note that coworker harassment is not just about sexual advances. Racial slurs, homophobic remarks, or any discriminatory behavior that makes work feel unsafe or hostile can also be considered harassment.

The Impact of Coworker Harassment: Beyond Discomfort

Coworker harassment can have a significant negative impact on your well-being. It can lead to:

  • Decreased work performance: Feeling stressed, anxious, or unsafe can make it difficult to focus and complete your tasks effectively.
  • Emotional distress: Harassment can cause anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Physical health problems: The constant stress of harassment can manifest in physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and sleep problems.

If you’re experiencing coworker harassment, don’t suffer in silence. Your well-being and your right to a safe work environment are important.

Taking Action: Addressing Coworker Harassment

Here are some steps you can take if you’re being harassed by a coworker:

  1. Document Everything: Keep a detailed record of the harassment, including dates, times, specific actions (verbal, physical, or electronic), and any witnesses present. Having a clear record is crucial if you need to file a formal complaint.
  2. Directly Address the Behavior (Optional): If you feel safe doing so, you can try to address the behavior directly. In a calm and professional manner, let your coworker know that their actions are offensive and unwelcome.
  3. Report the Harassment: Inform your supervisor, Human Resources department, or a trusted colleague about the situation. Most companies have procedures in place for handling employee complaints.
  4. Consider Bystander Intervention: If you witness someone else being harassed, speak up or report it to a supervisor or HR. Your intervention can help protect another employee and send a message that harassment is not tolerated.

Protecting Yourself From Retaliation

Unfortunately, sometimes employees who report harassment face retaliation from the harasser or even their employer. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Keep Detailed Records: Document any instances of retaliation, including specific examples of how you were treated differently after reporting the harassment.
  • File a Complaint with the EEOC: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment. You can file a complaint with the EEOC if you believe you have been retaliated against for reporting harassment.
  • Seek Legal Help: An employment attorney can advise you on your legal rights and take steps to protect you from retaliation.

Remember, You Have Rights

Federal and state laws protect employees from harassment in the workplace. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in California and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are two key pieces of legislation that ensure a safe work environment. These laws prohibit discrimination and harassment based on several protected characteristics, including race, religion, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, and age (40 or older).

Moving Forward: Creating a Safer Workplace

If you’ve been harassed by a coworker, know that you are not to blame. You have the right to work in an environment free from harassment and intimidation. By taking action and reporting the harassment, you can help create a safer workplace for yourself and your colleagues.

Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):