Verbal harassment in the workplace can be a sticky and complicated case to prove.
There is a thin line that separates verbal reprimanding and verbal harassment.
On one hand, you do not want to remove the right of the employer, management or supervisors to verbally reprimand an employee for screwing up at his work, but on the other hand, you do not want to encourage the existence of verbal abuse in the workplace.
It is also difficult to separate verbal harassment from employee's right to freedom of speech.
The best way to combat verbal harassment in the workplace is to have clear policies against discrimination and to have employees and employers know their duties and limitations.
To help employers and employees, here is an overview about verbal harassment:
This refers to bullying that is in the form of written or oral slurs.
Although it is usually practiced by people with a higher degree of authority in the workplace, verbal harassment can also occur between two or more co-employees.
Some examples of verbal harassment are:
- Name calling
- Derogatory remarks
- Crude jokes
- Imitating employee's way of speaking in a derogatory manner
- Sarcastic comments that aims to bring someone down
- Sexual remarks
For a verbal act to be considered harassment, it should have adverse effects on the employee such as:
- Feeling of inadequacy
- High levels of stress
- Feeling of being ignored
- Decreased work performance
- Forced to resign
- Defamation of character
- Loss of trust
To prove sexual harassment, here are the elements that need to be proven:
- The verbal acts done by the harasser are unwelcomed acts.
- The verbal acts were consistent and frequent.
- The verbal acts created a hostile working environment.
The employer is required to keep a workplace that is reasonably free from discrimination and harassment.
There should be a proper grievance system that can be used by the employees to air their complaints.
If the employer fails to take action to correct the problem of harassment in the workplace, then they can be held equally liable as well.
For failing to protect the employee from harassment, the employer can be named as a defendant in the verbal harassment lawsuit together with the harasser himself.
If you feel that you are a victim of verbal harassment, consult an employment law attorney to review your case.
This is to determine the strength of your case and whether there really was harassment or not.