What Is Harassment

"Of all the griefs that harass the distrest, sure the most bitter is a scornful jest." ˜ Samuel Johnson; English author

According to the Random House Dictionary, to harass means "to disturb persistently; torment, as with troubles or cares; bother continually; pester; persecute." In the courts today, there are numerous forms of harassment cases. Certainly, sexual harassment is the one people hear about most often. It is one of the most serious forms of harassment as well. It may also be one of the hardest to prove.

When someone makes lewd advances, either with words or gestures, toward another who clearly shows their disapproval, it is sexual harassment if they repeat the behavior. It does not have to be of a physical nature.

Harassment no longer means what it did to the older generation. Repetitive annoying behavior is now illegal in certain situations, whether they pose a physical threat to the victim or not. We now know that victims of harassment suffer emotionally, and it can be as devastating as physical suffering.

Most people will honestly tell you that they are annoyed and bothered daily, either by other people, inanimate objects or by certain situations. Small children pester their parents. Parents annoy their adult children. Escalating violence on the news is bothersome. Buses and trains that are consistently late are enough to make people want to scream.

However, these situations are a part of life, and most people deal with it and get on with the business of living. When someone annoys, pesters or torments you to the point where you are at a loss as to how to stop it, when it is making you miserable day in and day out, that is crossing the line and is the perfect example of harassment that has gone too far.

Young children are victims of harassment, in the form of a bully. Bullies pick their target, another child they know will be easy to pick on, tease and scare easily. Once a bully sees that their victim is petrified, their harassing behavior escalates. Bullies in school continue to torment until a school official, or a parent intervenes on the child's behalf.

Bullies in the workplace are harder to deal with because as adults we believe we can take it. In addition, we may put up with it if the bully is our superior, for fear of losing our jobs if we complain about it. A harsh word of warning to the bully's superior will usually stop it, but there are those times when you need to get outside help.

When a co-worker's behavior toward you begins to affect your work performance, or causes you to dread going to work every day, then you have to report this to someone in authority above both of you. If, after you take this step, nothing changes, you may have a case of harassment, and the best thing to do would be to consult a lawyer. You will need to prove that you did nothing to warrant this co-worker's behavior, which only involves others stating that you were doing your job.

No one has the right to make you feel inferior or to make you afraid to come to work, just as bullies do not have the right to make children fake sick because they cannot face another day of teasing. If parents go to the school to complain about the bullying, but school officials do nothing to stop it after that, parents need to look into their legal rights. Usually, sending the harassed child to a counselor to discuss how it makes them feel is enough to prove harassment.

Everyone at some time in their lives has experienced problems with their neighbors. Neighbors argue over issues with their children, their dogs, excessive noise and, more recently, there are squabbles over parking spaces. Usually in the cases of fighting children, these problems resolve themselves. That is because children forgive and forget quicker and easier than adults do, and the children will be playing with each other in no time.

Years ago, neighbors would usually settle their differences by fighting it out in the streets, either verbally or physically, and that ended it because one neighbor would usually win the fight.  They may not speak to each other ever again, but there would not be any more scuffles.

With so many things to disagree on today, neighbors will usually think of ways to try to force each other into moving out. They may tease your dog, throw snow on the spot you plowed for your car or they may play their music deliberately loud. Many of these things can be resolved if you complain to a city official and find out what is, and is not, against the law where you live. You may be able to claim harassment if you have had to file several times, and you if have proof, either in the form of pictures, videotapes or audio tapes.

If we all went to court for anyone or anything that ever bothered us, the majority of us would spend our lives in the courtroom. People need to know, however, that there are people who live to harass others. We need to know at what point harassment replaces annoyance.

Here are a few ways to spot harassment. If someone is doing any of the following to you, you should speak to a law enforcement agency about ways to stop it:

  • threatens you with their words or actions
  • repeatedly calls you, writes letters to you or stalks you
  • repeats behavior or words they know offends you
  • repeatedly invades your privacy
  • worries you to the point where it affects your well-being
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Harassment in the workplace is an issue you might need to deal with if you become a manager. When an employee comes forward with complaints about a co-worker's behavior, a good manager will have a plan in place.

The definition of harassment is physical or verbal hostility toward someone with legally protected status. Understanding what constitutes harassment will allow workers to recognize it when it is happening and put a stop to it.

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Unfortunately, some people who were bullies as children become bullies as adults. Since they encounter too many people who are afraid of them, they might be able to bully their way into a good job. These people poison companies, but they somehow manage to stick around. Luckily, you don't have to put up with them.

A victim of workplace harassment may not feel comfortable speaking to a supervisor, but there is no reason to be nervous when it comes to protecting your rights. By not reporting harassment, you are giving the harasser even more power.

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