Harassment is Workplace Violence

According to Statista, America’s civilian labor force is about 164 million people. That is a little under half the population. Given the sizable proportion of the public this accounts for, the topic of workplace violence is more salient than ever. Are Americans safe at work, and do they have a clear picture of what constitutes workplace violence? This blog will unpack a few common examples of workplace violence and what steps you can take to mitigate its effects on you and your coworkers.


Many Americans believe that some physical altercation must occur in the workplace to be deemed “workplace violence”. Well, this could not be further from the truth. OSHA defines workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or threatening disruptive behavior at the work site.”

Harassment in the workplace is prevalent across all industries. Harassment is unreasonable behavior that demeans, humiliates, or embarrasses someone. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission expands upon this by deeming harassment as any “unwelcome verbal or physical behavior based on race, color, religion, gender/gender identity, age, etc.”

Workplace harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal regulations. Harassment becomes unlawful when:

  • The conduct is severe enough that a reasonable person would consider the workplace intimidating, hostile or abusive
  • Enduring the conduct is a prerequisite to the victim’s continued employment

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment, like workplace harassment, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, sexual harassment is deemed unlawful when it leads to sexual assault. According to a 2017 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the EEOC received 26,978 claims of workplace harassment – a quarter (6,696) of which were specifically sexual harassment claims.

According to the EEOC, there are two types of sexual harassment:

    1. Quid Pro Quo – this type of harassment occurs when sexual advances are demanded of an employee in exchange for an employment benefit, e.g., hiring, continued employment, promotions, pay raises, etc.
    2. Hostile Work Environment – this type of harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to one of the following:
    • Staring or leering
    • Dissemination of sexually explicit material via emails, letters, or notes
    • Display of sexually explicit material in the workplace
    • Jokes and offensive remarks

If the behavior worsens, sexual assault is in play. Unwarranted touching, patting, pinching or inappropriately brushing oneself against a victim all constitute ample grounds to file a sexual assault claim.

Sexual harassment’s adverse effects on a workplace cannot be overstated. For its victims, they deal with undue guilt, shame, and stress. Also, sexual harassment cripples an employees’ morale and productivity. Companies must have effective grievance measures to tackle these issues, and the resulting corrective actions must be stern and decisive.

Report and Documenting Your Claim

Before starting the claim process, we appeal to everyone enduring any form of workplace violence to address the perpetrator and demand that they stop immediately. If you have done this and seen no changed behavior – or you’re uncomfortable addressing the perp – you can go ahead.

Your next step is to report the incident to at least two different supervisors. In your report, make sure you include the following:

    • The date and time of the incident
    • The incident’s location
    • A detailed description of what happened
    • The person(s) involved, including witnesses
    • Any other information necessary to explain your concerns

We recommend that you timestamp all emails concerning your claims and that you send yourself a private copy of all your communications during the claim process. This ensures that even if your emails get deleted, you will not be left vulnerable. Make sure that your company follows its sexual harassment policy to the letter. If the perpetrator is a high-ranking official in your company, you can always reach out to someone higher up in the chain of command.


At EMR Safety and Health, we are dedicated to equipping everyday people with the knowledge they need to effectively understand and combat workplace violence. If you are interested in learning more sign up for our Active Shooter, Workplace Violence Online Event by clicking here or visit us at www.emrsafetyandhealth.com.