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1128 Harassment



Harassment is any form of unwanted and unwelcome behavior which may range from mildly unpleasant remarks to physical violence. Workplace harassment is when someone harasses you while you are doing your job, or on your way to or from work.

A harasser can be anyone you come in contact with because of your work. That person might be a boss, supervisor, manager, member of your board of directors, coworker, customer, patient, delivery person or a person in your union.
It entails many forms such as:

Sexual harassment is any unwanted attention of a sexual nature, like remarks about your looks or personal life. Sometimes these comments sound like compliments, but they make you feel uneasy. Sexual harassment can include:

• degrading words or pictures (like graffiti, photos, or posters);
• physical contact of any kind;
• sexual demands.

Racial harassment is any action that expresses or promotes racial hatred and stereotypes. It can be obvious or subtle. It can include:

• spoken or written putdowns;
• gestures;
• jokes;
• other unwanted comments or acts.

Psychological harassment comes in two forms - verbal abuse and bullying. Most victims suffer from physical ailments, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, stress, fatigue, depressive states, burn outs, and in some cases suicide. Many are unable to continue working and suffer financial loss.

In some cases the causes are overwork, unrealistic work demands, withholding information and resources, arbitrary removal of responsibilities, public humiliation consistent over time, lack of professional autonomy, favoritism, excessive competitive work environment, disorganized working conditions, constant threats of dismissal, leadership styles, lack of communication, and intimidation. Some tactics aim at trying to humiliate or weaken the morale of individuals or groups.

Bullying aims at ridiculing an individual by making constant negative remarks, repeated criticism or sarcasm, intimidation, threats, insinuations, trying to humiliate, circulating false information concerning the individual, and to socially isolate the individual.

Someone is harassing you if:

• he is doing things to make you feel uncomfortable;
• he is saying things to make you feel uncomfortable;
• he is putting you at risk in some way

The harasser will pick anything that makes you seem different from him. You might be harassed because of your gender, race disability, age, looks, sexual preference, religious beliefs, family, birth place, political beliefs. You might even be harassed just because the harasser doesn't get along with you.

Harassers often have authority in the workplace. Your supervisor might be a harasser. You might also be harassed by a coworker who wants you out of his way. You might be harassed by someone who works under you and doesn't like it. The harasser wants to hold power over you. He counts on your fear of complaining.

Sometimes harassment that occurs outside the workplace affects your work. Actions like these can cause problems or harm relationships among employees:

• someone from work follows you or hangs around your home;
• phone calls and letters are sent to your home;
• things happen at staff parties or retreats.

What Should I Do?
Maybe you have been harassed at work for years. Maybe you are being harassed for the first time. Maybe someone or something at work is making you feel uncomfortable, but you aren't sure if it is harassment or not. What should you do?

Trust your instincts. If something makes you uncomfortable, there is a reason. Tell someone you trust right away. Not every comment or gesture is going to turn into ongoing harassment against you. You may want to see if it happens again, or see if it has happened to someone else. But don't ignore your feelings.

Seek out support. You do not have to deal with harassment alone. Talk to friends and people who can support and encourage you.
Learn as much as you can. You need information about your options. You need to use the help that is available. When you know what is possible, you will be able to decide what to do.

Take care of yourself. Harassment can make you feel bad physically and emotionally. It makes it hard to do your work. You may be too afraid of losing your job. You may be worried about what will happen to you. You may not feel ready to deal with your harasser. Harassment affects more than just your job. It can upset your home life, your relationships and your health.

Deal with the harasser yourself first. If unable to do so, deal with the harassment through your workplace. You can do this formally or informally. Remember that you have the right to work in an environment free from harassment.

Make a legal complaint. If you can't resolve the problem at work, you may decide to make a legal complaint.

Harassment can be frustrating especially when you feel you have no control over the situation. Remember, no action can be taken unless YOU, as the victim, take the initiative to put a stop to this issue.


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