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Is all workplace harassment the same?

When you decide to work for a company, there are likely a few things that you considered when you accepted the job. One of the factors was likely that you wanted to earn money. Another factor might have been how you felt you would like working at the company. Once you start working for that company, you might discover that the environment isn't what you thought it would be. While that might be just a luck-of-the-draw occurrence, it might also be because you are the victim of some form of workplace harassment.

What is workplace harassment?

Workplace harassment occurs when people in the workplace treat you in a negative manner because of a protected status. These statuses include parental status, gender identity, pregnancy, color, sex, race, religion, disability, national origin, sexual orientation or age. It doesn't matter who is harassing you as long as it is because of a protected status. This means that you are protected from harassment by supervisors, co-works, clients, customers, contractors and anyone else who you come into contact with at work.

What are the different types of harassment?

A hostile work environment is one form of workplace harassment. In this case, the harassing behavior would be actions like making crude jokes, unwanted touching, acting in a hostile manner, using demeaning terms or similar actions. Quid pro quo harassment is the other form of workplace harassment. In this case, a supervisor would make deals with you that have an impact on your work. An example would be telling you that you will be promoted if you perform sexual acts or join a supervisor's religion.

Workplace harassment is against the law. There are federal and state laws that provide very specific protections for protected statuses. If you have been the victim of workplace harassment, learning your options for putting an end to the harassment is the first thing you need to do.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "What do I need to know about…Workplace Harassment?," accessed July 16, 2015

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