What Is The Legal Definition Of Harassment

The definition of harassment is physical or verbal hostility toward someone with legally protected status. Harassment in the workplace costs millions in low morale, lower production, legal action and employee turnover. Understanding what constitutes harassment will allow workers to recognize it when it is happening and put a stop to it.

Definition Of Harassment
Harassment is any physical or verbal abuse of a person because of her race, religion, age, gender, disability or any other legally protected status. Harassment in the workplace can further be clarified as any conduct that creates significant anguish to another person, with the intent to bother, scare or emotionally abuse her. Federal and state harassment laws have further outlined what does and does not constitute harassment for various situations.

Examples Of Harassment
Harassment is easy to recognize in some instances, such as overt sexual harassment (unwanted sexual advances or a sexually explicit environment). However, other occasions of harassment may not be as plain, yet they still create a hostile work environment. Religious harassment can stem from jokes, teasing or coercion about religious beliefs, practices or clothing. Gender harassment has to do with conduct, behaviors and conversations that demean someone because of her gender. Age harassment is any negative treatment on the basis of age, including exclusion, restrictions or coercing someone to retire early. Racial harassment victims are subject to offensive stereotyping through words, jokes and gestures. Harassment can even occur based on one's national origin, when a person's gestures, comments, symbols and accent are under attack.

Changing Definitions
Lawmakers will continue to expand the definitions of harassment to protect victims, and new harassment cases are adding to or altering the legal definition of harassment. One of the newest areas of the law relates to online harassment, often called "cyberstalking." This is a different avenue for harassment because there is no physical proximity to the victim and not even any verbal communication. As harassment laws change, it is important for managers to keep up with those laws before a problem gets out of control.

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