When most folks hear about workplace harassment, it’s likley to be sexual harassment because that’s usually the most common and publicized form. The typical scenerio involves a female subordinate being sexually harassed by a male manager/supervisor, and/or co-worker(s). However, harassment is much broader than that of a purely sexual nature. In fact, harassment may take many forms.
Under the Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, harassment may likewise be based upon one’s race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin, or genetic information — in addition to sex. Harassment is no longer strictly a “she said, he said” sexual situation that often happens behind closed doors. A broader definition of harassment, beyond that based on sex alone, has been upheld by numerous appellate level courts over the years and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court over a decade ago — see http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/harassment.html.
Harassment complaints on the rise
A recent article in FedSmith points out that the number of overall harassment complaints filed by Federal workers against their agencies has increased in recent years, according to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Moreover, it’s possible these figures represent the tip-of-the-iceberg because many employees are fearful of speaking out against, or reporting, unlawful behavior, according to the conventional wisdom of employment lawyers and legal analysts. Unfortunately, these harassment victims end up sufferring in silence while the harasser continues to violate the law at will and possibly target others.
Is harassment increasing because fewer Feds are leaving Government?
The issue of harassment may be further complicated these days according to a theory posited by the FedSmith author, a former Justice Dept. attorney: fewer Feds are voluntarily leaving their jobs during today’s tough economic times, which may result in even more employees being harassed by supervisors and managers. No one deserves to be stuck in a hostile workplace. That’s why it’s in the best interest of all Feds to understand their workplace rights and speak out against illegal behavior.
Have you ever been harassed or witnessed harassment at work?
As a Federal employee, have you ever been harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment? If not, have you witnessed a fellow Fed being victimized? If so, please consider a comment below on your experience. If you prefer to comment anonymously, please e-mail [email protected] for posting. If not, then please share your general thoughts on the topic, as you deem appropriate.
There’s nothing worse than a seriel harasser at work to crush morale and hinder productivity of an employee, team or entire office. To borrow from DHS: if you see something, say something!
*** NOTE: this blog has been revised and updated from an initial version posted on June 12.
*** All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.