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Navigating Workplace Harmony: Understanding and Addressing Harassment

By Christina Santillo, SHRM-CP, Senior Human Resources Consultant

A workplace should be an atmosphere where every individual feels not just professionally engaged but also respected and secure. It’s within this nurturing environment that creativity flourishes, and teams thrive collaboratively. Unfortunately, the presence of workplace harassment can significantly compromise an organization, casting a shadow on the positive dynamics that a workplace strives to achieve. Workplace harassment can lead to various negative consequences, impacting both individuals and the overall work environment, including high turnover, legal consequences, decreased morale, and negative organizational culture. It’s crucial for organizations to address and prevent harassment to create a positive and healthy work environment that fosters the well-being and success of all employees.

What is Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment refers to unwelcome conduct based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Harassment can manifest in various forms, including verbal, physical, or visual, and can create a hostile work environment.

Examples of workplace harassment may include:

  • Verbal Harassment: Offensive jokes, slurs, or derogatory comments targeting an individual or group.
  • Physical Harassment: Unwanted physical contact, intimidation, or any form of aggressive behavior.
  • Visual Harassment: Displaying offensive images, posters, or materials that contribute to a hostile work environment.
  • Cyberbullying: Harassment through emails, messages, or social media platforms, creating a digital hostile space.
  • Sexual Harassment: Unwanted advances, comments, or any form of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature.

Upon receiving a harassment claim, it is crucial to promptly initiate an investigation and ensure that a well-defined process is in place to address the matter effectively.  Failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate and remediate a claim of harassment can lead to significant liability for your organization.

Best Practices

Preventing and addressing workplace harassment requires a proactive and comprehensive approach. Here are some best practices to foster a respectful and inclusive work environment:

  • Clear Anti-Harassment Policy
  • Promote a culture of respect
  • Training and Education for both employees and supervisors on Anti-Harassment
  • Establish reporting mechanisms for harassment complaints
  • Prompt and thorough investigations
  • Leadership commitment to a culture of respect and enforcement of Anti-Harassment Policy
  • Regular policy review
  • Diversity and Inclusion initiatives

Fostering a harassment-free workplace is not just a legal obligation but a commitment to creating an environment where every employee feels valued and treated with dignity.

If you are an employer with questions about how to handle a harassment complaint contact our Risk Management Division by calling 855-873-0374 or emailing us at We will be happy to help!