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How Can I Identify Supervisor Harassment at Work?

July 26th, 2022
Delaware County Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Can Help You Stop Supervisor Harassment.

When it comes to workplace harassment, it might be obvious that inappropriate behavior is occurring. In some situations, it might not be as clear. In fact, many harassers are skilled at masking their inappropriate actions, and this can leave people wondering if their rights have been violated. How can you tell when a supervisor is harassing you? What can be done?

Workplace harassment falls violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The definition of harassment is unwelcome conduct based on one’s sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion, color, age, or other protected class.

When harassment becomes illegal:

  • When putting up with the offensive behavior turns into a condition for continued employment.
  • The behavior is severe or persistent enough that is creates a hostile work environment.
  • When the harassment is carried out in retaliation against someone who filed a discrimination charge, testified, or played a part in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit.
  • When a worker opposed employed practices that they reasonably felt discriminated against others.

In order for the harassment to be illegal, the abusive behavior must create a work environment that is offensive, hostile, or intimidating to reasonable people. Isolated incidents and minor annoyances and offenses will normally not be illegal unless they are very serious.

Examples of harassment by a supervisor might include repeated, unwelcome and unnecessary touching, or constantly using offensive nicknames. Other instances might be explicitly and repeatedly talking about sexual habits, frequently commenting about the color of someone’s skin, and telling jokes of a sexual nature.

These behaviors can include and/or escalate into offensive texts, emails, obvious ridicule, threats, and physical assaults. Any of these behaviors can impact a worker’s sense of mental and physical well-being, as well as their job performance.

Types of Supervisor Harassment

Gender-based harassment is when the unwelcome conduct is directed toward someone based on their gender. This might include a male supervisor sharing photos with the whole office that are degrading to women, or a male nurse being harassed about doing “women’s work.”

Religious discrimination or harassment might be seen when supervisors do not allow members of certain religious to take off for holidays, wear traditional religious clothing, or practice important customs. Like those who encounter other types of harassment, these workers can also have to cope with cruel jokes and comments. You might see this if a supervisor constantly refers to an employee’s religion in a derogatory way.

An example of workplace sexual harassment might be a supervisor asking out a male assistant out for drinks repeatedly, or arranging to visit his room on a work trip. If she told him that having a sexual relationship with her would advance his career, this could also qualify as quid pro quo harassment, depending on the circumstances.

Harassment can also take place at work parties, in company vehicles, client facilities, and other off-site locations. It can also occur at job interviews, which can be conducted by assistants, HR staff, and supervisors. Employers should never ask interviewees about their sexual preferences, religion, or ethnic background.

The harasser might not be your supervisor, either. That person might be a supervisor for another department, a colleague, vendor, or client. The target might be you, another worker, and anyone else who is impacted by the harasser’s offensive behavior.

What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

Quid pro quo occurs when a favor is granted in return for something. When a supervisor or other authority figure offers a promotion in exchange for a sexual favor, that is quid pro quo sexual harassment.

When a supervisor tries to use their own influence and power to obtain sexual favors in return for a promotion or something similar, they are breaking the law. It might start out as meeting for drinks in exchange for better working hours, but could also encompass a threat of termination for an employee who refuses to sleep with their supervisor. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, you will not be held liable if you consented; the supervisor and employer might be, though.

Before the actual offer of a favor is made, the supervisor may have already created a hostile work environment. Something as seemingly harmless as a manager asking an employee to accompany them to worship services every week can mask their real intentions. Invitations are often misinterpreted by subordinates.

What Should I Do if My Supervisor Is Harassing Me?

It is not easy to confront supervisors about their unacceptable behaviors since they hold higher positions within companies and their actions can influence others’ job security. Still, you do not have to put up with this kind of conduct and will want to address it as soon as possible.

You can try to address the problem by speaking directly to the supervisor about how you feel about their behavior and ask them to stop. This is best done in person; write out what you want to communicate ahead of time, and practice saying it out loud.

If this seems too troubling, reach out to that person’s supervisor or your HR department. Your company may have an anti-harassment policy in place, so read over your employee manual to see what the process is for handling your supervisor’s conduct.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the laws pertaining to workplace harassment. If you have tried addressing the situation with no success, you can file a charge. This can be done by mail or in person at a local EEOC office.

If the supervisor’s harassment causes a hostile work environment, they may be able to avoid liability if they can prove they:

  • Reasonably attempted to prevent and correct the harassing behavior promptly.
  • The worker unreasonably failed to take part in preventive or corrective actions that the employer provided.

It is critical to have a lawyer on your side.

The EEOC will consider the entire situation, including the alleged conduct and context that took place. They make their determinations on a case-by-case basis. If you have attempted to end the harassment through your employer’s resources and the EEOC without satisfaction, the other option is to pursue legal recourse with help from a lawyer.

Delaware County Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Can Help You Stop Supervisor Harassment

No one deserves to be harassed at work by an abusive supervisor. If you are being harassed at work and wish to explore your legal options, speak with one of our Delaware County employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-1999. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey and Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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