Workplace Harassment Training: Understanding, Responding, and Preventing

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established that employees have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. Employees also have a right to be treated with respect and dignity while they’re on the job. But every year, tens of millions of US workers report that they have experienced some type of harassment at work. This offensive behavior is bad for people and for business. It’s also illegal. In this program, we will discuss what harassment is, why it is detrimental to us all, how you should respond to it, and ways that you can avoid violence if possible.

What is Workplace Harassment?

A day on the job can often pass more pleasantly when workers keep things light by sharing humor, banter, and maybe even a little horseplay. But sometimes, an employee’s verbal or physical jabs might get too pointed. When a co-worker begins to feel more than a little uncomfortable, the Joker may not know when to back off or they may not want to for reasons of their own, or maybe no real reason at all. They keep needling their target, pushing buttons, testing boundaries. This is called harassment. It is unwelcome and offensive and can make a workplace feel hostile and abusive for the victim.

There are many types of harassment. It includes verbal abuse, things that people say that are hurtful or disturbing to another, as well as physical abuse. Abuse of horseplay can hurt a victim’s body as badly as it does their feelings. While much of the harassment that takes place at work is done intentionally, it’s important to remember that it is not always meant to be harassing. So as you interact with your co-workers, keep in mind that each individual is the judge of what they feel is offensive. Something that doesn’t bother one person may be very hurtful to another.

The Impact of Workplace Harassment

The impact of harassment on a workplace is not limited to the victim alone. It can create a tense and hostile atmosphere that can affect everyone, even those who are not exposed to the harassment directly. This toxic work environment can damage employee morale and reduce job satisfaction throughout the organization. It can also drive down productivity, directly affecting a company’s business. But that’s still not the whole story because all too often, harassment can escalate into a workplace violence. People can be hurt, even killed. Everyone involved in a violent incident may also be subject to disciplinary action by their company. They could even lose their jobs. And regardless of who started it, violence can get you into serious trouble with the law. So complaints of workplace harassment should always be taken very seriously.

How to Respond to Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment is considered to be a type of discrimination, and as such, it is against the law. The 1964 Civil Rights Act made it illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Other laws have been passed to protect people against discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Many instances of harassing behavior focus on personal characteristics like these. For example, someone who was harassing an older co-worker by constantly questioning whether they could work with the company’s newfangled computers would be discriminated against them based on their age.

If you experience workplace harassment, it is important to take action. Here are some steps you can take to respond to harassment:

  1. Document the harassment: Keep a record of the incidents of harassment, including dates, times, and what was said or done. This information can be helpful if you decide to report the harassment to your employer or take legal action.
  2. Report the harassment: If you feel comfortable, report the harassment to your supervisor, human resources department, or another designated individual at your company. You can also file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s fair employment practices agency.
  3. Seek support: Consider reaching out to a therapist, counselor, or support group to help you cope with the emotional impact of the harassment.
  4. Take legal action: If the harassment continues and your employer does not take appropriate action, you may want to consider speaking with an attorney about filing a lawsuit.

It is important to note that retaliation for reporting harassment is illegal. If you experience any form of retaliation for reporting harassment, you should report it immediately to your employer or the appropriate agency.


Workplace harassment is a serious issue that affects millions of employees every year. Not only is it detrimental to the well-being of victims, but it also has negative effects on company culture, morale, and productivity. By providing workplace harassment training, companies can create a safe and healthy work environment where everyone is treated with respect and dignity. By understanding what constitutes harassment and how to prevent and report it, employees can work together to create a positive and productive workplace for all.