9 Common Myths Busted About Workplace Harassment

Did you know that almost 75% of workplace harassment occurrences go unreported in the United States? Between 2018 and 2021, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 27,291 charges of workplace harassment.

Workplace harassment has become a prominent topic of discussion, focusing on the uncomfortable reality that many employees experience. From bullying to outright discrimination, there are several types of workplace harassment that contribute to a toxic work environment in the workplace. 

The most common forms of harassment are psychological and verbal, but there are also more severe types, including physical and sexual harassment. All types of workplace harassment are against the law as they impact an employee’s productivity, comfort, and safety at work. 

Aside from its negative consequences on employees, workplace misconduct, including harassment and bullying, cost U.S. corporations $20 billion in lawsuits, brand damage, lost productivity, and employee turnover in 2020.

Unfortunately, there are myths about workplace harassment that can contribute to a terrible work atmosphere and discourage victims from coming forward. Therefore, debunking common workplace harassment misconceptions is important to raise awareness and build a safer workplace atmosphere.

9 Common Myths About Workplace Harassment

Recognizing Harassment Is Just Common Sense

According to research, approximately 16% of people are unaware of workplace violations. Furthermore, 32% of employees were unaware that making jokes could be considered unacceptable behavior. 

Harassment can be subtle, which makes it difficult to detect without appropriate education. Unconscious bias and cultural differences also influence our perceptions of harassment. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name-calling, insults or put-downs, physical assaults or threats, offensive objects or pictures, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, and interference with work performance.

The solution to determine the situation? Everyone must analyze their behavior and ask questions like, “If someone found that statement/joke offensive, why would it be offensive? Who could it offend? People must be sensitive to how others react in the present, paying close attention to what we and others say.”

After-Work Social Media Actions, Like Lewd Comments Or Tagging, Aren’t Workplace Sexual Harassment.

Though it is considered that an employee witnesses harassment only during working hours or within the workplace, the truth is such instances can go beyond that. Not just during. For instance, if an employee is tagged in inappropriate images by a colleague without permission or is disregarded with sexually explicit language on social media, it is considered to be sexual harassment at work.

 A Single, Isolated Incident Cannot Be Considered Harassment

The EEOC states that even one serious incident can be considered harassment in the workplace. It’s not just about how often it happens; it will still be seen as harassment, even if it only happened once. This helps to ensure that the workplace remains safe and respectful for everyone. 

Only Victim Should Have Workplace Harassment Knowledge

Some people believe only victim person need to know about diversity, inclusion, and harassment prevention. But that’s not true. Discrimination isn’t just one person’s problem. It affects everyone. When everyone understands what discrimination is and how to stop it, workplaces become safer and more acceptable for everyone.

According to research, businesses with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to exceed financial targets. Employees who get diversity and inclusion training learn to accept and value their peer’s various perspectives, boosting collaboration and teamwork. It highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion training for every employee.

Only Women are Victims of Sexual Harassment

It is a frequent misperception that sexual harassment can only affect women. While women encounter the majority of workplace harassment, data suggests that approximately 43% of men have experienced some type of sexual harassment in their lives. Men are the most likely to suffer verbal sexual harassment, followed by online sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact, physical following, unwanted genital flashing, and sexual assault. According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it gets over 12,000+ claims of sex-based harassment each year, with men filing only around 16% of those charges.

As estimated by the number of EEOC reports filed by men, they are significantly less likely to file a harassment claim. This could be related to a fear of being seen as weak or lacking in masculinity. Men, like women, may fear retaliation or be labeled as “troublemakers.” Furthermore, some men may be clueless about their legal rights or the resources available to them if they wish to pursue a claim. Finally, there may be a culture of silence in some organizations that discourages employees, particularly men, from speaking up about sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Can’t Happen Unless You Are Physically Touched

When it comes to sexual harassment, most people immediately think of physical touch. While physical harassment, like unwanted physical contact, kissing, grabbing, or violence, is very common, there are also other forms of harassment that exist. Visual harassment in the workplace can take various forms, including leering or threatening stares, as well as harsh comments about someone’s appearance or body language. It may also include displaying things or posters with improper or insulting images in a workspace. 

Victims of Sexual Harassment Should Not Speak Up

Victims of sexual harassment may feel scared to speak up for several reasons. People usually consider that if they complain about it, they might face consequences such as retaliation or feel embarrassed. However, it’s crucial for them to speak up despite these fears. 

Speaking up can lead to changes that prevent workplace harassment from happening to others in the future. It also allows employers to take action and create a safer workplace for everyone. Besides, there are laws and policies in place to protect victims from retaliation, so it’s important for them to know their rights and seek support.

Harassment only occurs between people of the opposite gender.

Harassment is not limited to interactions between people of different genders; it can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. So, it’s essential for workplace training on harassment prevention to cover a wide range of situations and address different forms of harassment, like bullying and using gender-neutral language. This helps ensure that everyone feels safe and respected at work, regardless of who they are.

An Official Complaint Must Be Filed Before Anything Can Be Done

If an employer or member of management informs you that you must file an official complaint before they can take any action regarding your concern, this response is insufficient. In employment law, there is no such thing as an “unofficial” complaint by an employee. Even if management gets a confidential or anonymous complaint, hears a rumour about office harassment, or has any reason to think something is wrong, it is their job to investigate. Failure to investigate discrimination accusations can result in legal consequences.

How Can We Help?

If you are experiencing workplace sexual harassment or need assistance understanding your rights as an employee, please contact us! Our workplace harassment lawyer at Accident Defenders is here to assist. We understand the severity of these situations, and we will handle your case with compassion, professionalism, and attention.

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