Harassment can occur in many different social settings such as the workplace, the home, school, churches. The Harassers or victims may be of any gender, race, etc. Workplace harassment is something that does happen. Be it in person or online and it is an issue impacting a number of businesses, both big and small.

Preventing Workplace harassment is the best tool for any company looking to keep up its goodwill. For victims of workplace harassment, the reality is that to win a harassment lawsuit, you'll have to prove it in court.

Matters of workplace harassment have gained traction among practitioners and researchers. It is becoming one of the most sensitive areas of effective workplace management. This is because a significant source of work stress is associated with aggressive behaviors in the workplace.

What acts can be classified as Harassment in the Workplace?

Workplace harassment is the belittling or threatening behavior directed at an individual worker or a group of workers. Many people use the term "harassment" to describe any workplace treatment that seems unfair or unduly harsh. Legally speaking, harassment encompasses anything that borders on discrimination.

Embed this workplace harassment form template on your organization’s handbook or website to allow employees and customers to report sexual, bullying and disrespectful incident in your workplace. This employee harassment form template is great for HRs, employers and company managers. 

What is Workplace Harassment?

From a legal perspective, harassment has a very specific meaning. It is conduct that is based on the victim's protected characteristic. If one's behavior towards another in the workplace is:

  • offensive
  • unwelcome, and
  • severe or pervasive enough to affect the terms and conditions of the victim's employment.

Then it is seen as Workplace harassment. In other words, harassment is illegal, especially if it's based on the victim's race, gender, age, disability, or the victims' other protected characteristics. Harassment in the workplace may include unwelcome actions of individuals, the use of objects to threaten, poor means of communication, bad behavior, and jokes in poor taste.


Types of Workplace Harassment 

As earlier stated, harassment can come in various forms. Be it could range from blatant racism to making snide comments and remarks about a colleague. Here discussed are a number of types of harassment an individual can experience at the workplace. 

1. Sexual Harassment 

Sexual harassment by definition refers to all actions that constitute sexual abuse or sexual assault. It is pertinent that individuals are aware that such things as indecent dressing and being handy constitute sexual harassment. 

Types of Sexual Harassment

  • Rape - The most severe of the lot, it is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person's consent. Rape isn’t just frowned at in the workplace but is also punishable by law.
  • Indecent dressing/Pictures - Wearing revealing items of clothing. The practices of indecent dressing do not conform to the companies code of dressing. Indecent exposure is the crime of intentionally showing one's sexual organs in public. It is unwelcome and punishable by law.
  • Quid-pro-quo - quid-pro-quo is the practice of favor or advantage granted in return for something. It is embarrassing if colleagues demand favors from each other to get work done. Situations where employees offer each other sexual favors to cover each other's shifts are seriously frowned at and shouldn’t be condoned.
  • Verbal sexual harassment - harassment that includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. If one employee keeps bugging another one for sex, even though there hasn’t been any physical contact, it constitutes verbal harassment.
  • Inappropriate touching - No person has the right to touch you at the workplace in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Unwelcome touching usually disguised as friendly or paternal behavior is unacceptable.

  • Workplace sex - It is not unlawful for a supervisor to date an employee, challenges only arise when it starts to affect work. But two employees having sex in the workplace? Even if it is one of your fantasies is an idea that should be shelved. Not only does it usually go against office rules, but it is also unlawful to have sex in a public space. 

What should employers do to prevent sexual harassment at work? 

The burden of preventing sexual harassment rests on the employer. Some ways to prevent it include:

  • Take action to eliminate discriminatory jokes at the workplace
  • Dealing with all forms of the complaint promptly, to nip it in the bud.
  • Provide protection and support for the employees who feel they are being harassed.
  • Introduce anti-harassment policies prohibiting harassment and spelling out punishment.
  • Execute anti-harassment training for all staff.
  • Correct the issue and protect the victim from retaliation

What should employees do to protect themselves from sexual harassment? 

  • Obtain and become familiar with the organizations' policy on sexual harassment.
  • Be aware of subtle forms of sexual harassment and report immediately.
  • Pay attention to the response of others in order to avoid unintentional offense.
  • If you know someone who is being harassed, give him or her your support. 
  • Encourage the recipient to talk about it and to take immediate action to stop it.


2. Cyber Harassment

This is basically any form of harassment by means of email, text messages and/or the internet. It is also synonymous with cyber bullying which is basically online bullying. It also includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.

How to Handle Cyber Harassment at the workplace

Unfortunately, the laws against Cyber harassment aren’t as airtight as that of sexual harassment. But there are definitely a few things you could do to manage the situation. It’s also to be taken seriously because of the fact that victims of cyber harassment may also experience anxiety, fear, depression, and low self-esteem.

  • Recognize that you're a victim of online harassment.
  • Prepare to contact the police by first gathering all the information you can about the harassment.
  • Call the Police regarding the harassment.
  • Turn Over Evidence to the appropriate quarters.
  • Consider Taking Legal Action against your bully.

To prevent being cyber harassed, here are a few tips you could use:

  • Avoid participating in forums or sites that encourage or allow people to make anonymous posts
  • Walk away.
  • Avoid using your social network and/or any online forum as to document personal details about your life.


3. Work Hours Harassment

Getting harassed during work hours can be a nightmare. Figures show that anywhere between 25 and 60 percent of women have been sexually harassed in the workplace, and 90 percent of the time their harassers were men. So what do you do to prevent and/or stop being harassed during work hours? Write an anti-harassment policy and implement it with stiff sanctions.

Racist Abuse at Work

Even though blatant racism, which is the discrimination against someone of a different race on the back of the belief that one's own race is superior, is a lot less common in today's society, there are still small hints of racism at the workplace, only this time, it has taken on another form. 

When a person tells a joke using stereotypes or there is a situation where senior employees of color are supposedly mistaken for junior employees, in a way that belittles them, then we can say that they have experienced racism. This king of implicit discrimination is systemic and is continued by company policies that look utterly neutral on the surface, when in reality, it is exactly what it seems, systematic racism.

The organization owes it to itself to tackle this form of racism or risk losing its reputation. Employees should be educated and stiff sanctions imposed on offenders. They also need to be prepared to take serious action against employees, including management, who display and enact racist behavior.

Gender Discrimination 

Gender discrimination also goes by the alias as sexual discrimination. It is any action that specifically denies opportunities, privileges, or rewards to a person (or a group of persons) because of their gender. 

Once you let a person's gender become a factor when deciding who receives a job or promotion, it is gender discrimination. Policies on maternity leave that don’t let women take adequate leave of absence to before and after the birth of the child is a form of gender discrimination. 

Under the federal law Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, gender discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Companies can handle gender discrimination in the workplace by: 

  • Practicing equal hiring - as many women as men deserve a callback.
  • Setting a strong non-discriminatory cultural foundation for the company.
  • Giving fair promotions to deserving employees seeing as females are those who are typically overlooked in these circumstances.
  • Indulging employees in training courses that tackle gender discrimination.

Stalking

Typically, stalking behaviors are interrelated with harassment and intimidation and usually include following the victim in person or monitoring them. How do you know you're being stalked? You are being stalked when a person repeatedly watches, follows or harasses you, making you feel afraid or unsafe. 

Workplace stalking is a scary form of harassment. Stalking in the workplace can have grim consequences for the victim and their colleagues. Although fortunately rare, this can even result in serious or fatal. Here’s how to deal with stalking at the workplace (Victim):

  • File a formal complaint with your employer and/or the police.
  • Request the offender to be given a stern warning.
  • If the stalker, the victim should file for a restraining order.
  • The stalker based on the presented evidence will be prosecuted.


4. Workplace Violence or Bullying

Any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site is termed workplace violence.

Workplace violence ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even in the extreme, homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.

Workplace bullying is explained as a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that can cause both emotional and physical harm. Some suggest that workplace bullying is generic harassment along with other forms of non-specific harassment. 

To combat bullying in the workplace, the company needs to develop policies to prevent it. In developing a policy to prevent harassment or bullying, the focus needs to be on preventing and responding to behaviors that are offensive or potentially life-threatening to others.


5. Job Interview Harassment

In a job interview, it is not just unprofessional for the interviewer to hit on you, you are also entitled to legal protection from such inappropriate behavior. Getting hit on during a job interview can happen, because not all interviewers have the same ethical standards. 

You could suffer job interview harassment through being subject to inappropriate questions, inappropriate behavior and an outright implication that your status as a job applicant will be influenced by whether you comply with a request for intimacy. 

For a job applicant, it is advisable that you do not give in to any advances against your better judgment. There is nothing worse than securing a job through complying with a request for intimacy. It may/may not be the beginning of a nightmare situation. If you want to take it up, you will need proof that you were indeed harassed.

If upon your rejection of their advances, you're not hired, it is important to note that employers in the United States do not have to give a reason for not hiring you. Many employers choose to send a standard rejection letter without explaining why you did not receive the job. Because if they do, then they're at the mercy of your lawsuit. However, even sending a rejection letter is not a legal requirement. 


6. Illegal/Criminal Duties at work 

When your boss asked you to do a criminal act or something against the law, you are under no obligation to carry out their bidding. Your best bet in such a situation is to decline and report the issue to the appropriate quarters. 

In the event that your employer fires you for refusing to do something illegal and/or for reporting illegal activity, you have a claim to wrongful termination claim. If you are fired because you refused to do something illegal at work or because you reported illegal activity, you may also have legal claims against your employer.


Key Statistics on Harassment at the workplace

For a clearer insight into harassment, we take a look at a few key statistics that define just how much it has pervaded the workplace. A report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that 75 percent of workplace harassment victims experienced retaliation when they spoke up.

Forty-five percent of the EEOC’s harassment claims was sex-based. At least 25 percent of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Somewhere between 87 and 94 percent of employees experiencing harassment do not file a formal complaint. Sexual harassment costs companies millions.

Can we call tasks not included in your job description workplace harassment?

For example, if the boss asks you to be his chauffeur or private valet, or better yet babysit his kids, are you to oblige him? The answer is no, but not an outright refusal. You’re not obligated to do any of those things except they are explicitly stated in your offer letter as part of your job description.

So how do you professionally draw the line when it comes to ridiculous requests? Respectfully decline and ask for flexibility. State that while you've found these tasks challenging, you'd like to challenge your skills in another specific direction. You should not necessarily do anything your boss asks you to. You're an employee, not a slave.

Are mental or emotional manipulation at the workplace a form of harassment? 

To reiterate, if one's behavior towards another in the workplace is offensive, unwelcome, and severe or pervasive enough to affect the terms and conditions of the victim's employment, then we can call it Workplace harassment. 

If you are emotionally and mentally manipulated because your employer has explicitly informed you that you no longer have job security, then you are definitely suffering workplace harassment. Always remember that losing your job is not the end of your existence. That being said, it is advisable to seek professional help. 


How Employers or HR can deal with Workplace Harassment 

  • Transparency

As an employer of labor or HR personnel, it is good to reassure employees at different points that nobody is above discipline in your organization. 

  • Company Handbook

Having a company handbook with a specific section spelling out the consequences of workplace harassment is a step in the right direction. It is also important to ensure employees read through the handbook and imbibe the company culture and values.

  • Identifying Workplace Harassment

Carrying out anonymous workplace harassment surveys for workers, if possible have an accessible online harassment form for employees. You can have this form as a QR code that can be on employee handbooks, stickers, banners, billboards and other key places in the office.

  • Company Policy

Company policy should be reviewed to emphasize zero tolerance for violence at the workplace. No form of violence should be tolerated whether by top-level managers or junior employees.

  • Addressing Employee Relationship 

Most companies insist that employees don’t go into relationships with each other in a bid to shelve the possibility of employees engaging in intimate moments at the workplace. It is important that the company takes a stance on employee relationships and spells out the repercussions of doing so if caught.


How Employers Can Receive Feedback with Online Forms & Surveys 

One way to identify and nullify harassment at the workplace is by encouraging employees to speak up about their experiences. One way to achieve this is to administer online forms and surveys to collect this information. 

Employers of labor and Human Resource personnel can help people speak up by using Formplus forms. With Formplus, you can create forms and surveys that collect data from your employees on workplace harassment online and offline.


5 Best Online Form Templates to Get Employee Feedback on Workplace Harassment

The Formplus online complaint form template can be used to receive a customer complaint or employees' feedback about your business and/or services. You can customize the ready-made form to suit your brand and embed the link on your website, social media pages or simply let customers scan QR code to give you the needed feedback.

Add this complaint form template to your organization and modify it to get feedback on sexual harassment claims. You can use this complaint form in any type of business. The complaint form template is a tool to facilitate feedback being heard clearly and effectively managed by recording key information at the time

Most people don't stick to just one job their whole lives, at some point, they leave. Employee exit surveys are useful in getting feedback about your company culture. This form should be completed by the supervisor and employee.

This simple online form provides employees with the chance to answer in-depth questions confidentially so that you can know employees' thoughts and emotions about their jobs and supervisors.

Get feedback on your business processes when you modify this online feedback form template. With it, you can gather useful information on your products, services, and more.

Understand better what your customers think about you with beautiful, mobile-ready feedback forms. Gather feedback on the spot with and gauge client satisfaction to enable you to know areas to improve in your services.

Take proper documentation of incidents in your companies or with your employees with the incident report form template. This form template lets you report cases of unfortunate happenings with hopes of mitigating such future occurrence with proper documentation.

Ideally, an incident report form is one you hope you never have to use, but that’s wishful thinking. It records details of an accident, injury, workplace incident, security breach, or any other type of harm that may have occurred.

This harassment form is the perfect form for every human resources personnel and employers to have on companies handbook or website to get direct information about any type of workplace harassment.


International Law guiding against Workplace Harassment

There are a number of International laws guiding against Workplace Harassment and this article is littered with references to that effect. Note that Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of the victim.

This according to information sourced from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It is very important that as a prospective employee, you check the company’s confidentiality agreement clause before signing a job contract. Is there anything that says you must NOT disclose anything that happens in the company’s, even if it’s illegal? 


Working without an employment contract? 

Ideally, there is always a contract between an employee and an employer. Even though you may not have it in writing, the contract will still exist. The onus is on your employer to give you a written statement within two months of you starting work. Contained in the statement are certain terms and conditions.

An employment contract can be verbal, written or both to be valid. If you continue to work two months after starting work without receiving a written statement containing the terms and agreements of your service, then you have yourself to blame if things go south. 

In the event, you do have a contract in place and you’re unlawfully dismissed implying that your employer has breached the terms of your contract, you have a valid case. 

What’d you do if your boss harasses you? 

If you are subject to harassment at the workplace by the employer you are supposed to bring your harassment complaints to, then it’s a tricky situation. Remember that harassment is both a criminal offense and a civil action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.


It is key to have solid evidence because it’s your word against that of the boss. The steps to take therefore if you’re being harassed by your boss would be to:

  • Prepare to contact the police by first gathering all the information you can about the harassment.
  • Call the Police regarding the harassment.
  • Turn Over Evidence to the appropriate quarters.
  • Consider Taking Legal Action against your boss.


Steps in Taking Legal Action against a colleague/boss/company who harasses you

If you've been the victim of harassment you can take action in the civil courts against the person harassing you. In the UK, there is a need for you to make your claim within six years of when the harassment happened. 

Also, you can still take civil court action even if the person harassing you hasn't been found guilty of a criminal offense. Handling harassment is also. No two cases are treated to the exact same degree or approach.  


Embed this workplace harassment form template on your organization’s handbook or website to allow employees and customers to report sexual, bullying and disrespectful incident in your workplace. This employee harassment form template is great for HRs, employers and company managers. 





  • Formplus Blog
  • on 17 min read

You may also like:

The 4,5, and 7 Point Likert Scale, Questionnaire Examples & Analysis

Wondering what a Likert Scale is? A Likert scale is basically a scale used to represent people's opinions and attitudes to a topic or ...

Formplus Blog
12 min read
Mass Shootings: How to Prepare for The Next Gun Violence Attack

In the wake of recent mass shootings and various violent firearm attacks, the debate on gun violence and gun control has once again come to ...

Formplus blog
8 min read
How to Reach Quiet Kids in the Classroom (Selective Mutism)

As awareness of physical and mental health comes to fore, it is pertinent that parents/guardians/teachers take a closer look at children ...

Formplus blog
4 min read
What is a Purchase Order? Template Format & How to Write a PO

Traditionally, a purchase order is used to regulate the purchasing of products and services from external suppliers. With an existing ...

Formplus Blog
14 min read
Formplus Logo   Never miss a story from us, get weekly updates in your inbox.

Formplus - For Seamless Data Collection

Take charge by implementing a powerful data collection tool into your processes. See how Formplus can transform the way you work with a free 21-day trial.
Try it Free