Even in this age of awareness about the potential for workplace harassment, hostile and intimidating working environments still exist.
Perhaps you are struggling with this kind of environment. Where does your employer stand on eliminating the problem?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, defines harassment in the workplace as unwelcome conduct based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Isolated incidents, annoyances and petty slights do not qualify. Harassment becomes illegal, however, when your job depends on tolerating the offensive behavior or when the harassment becomes so pervasive that it creates a hostile, abusive or intimidating work environment.
Your workplace harassment experience
You were not harassed personally, but day after day you have witnessed the unwanted advances made by a supervisor to the woman working at the desk next to yours. A divorced mother of two small children, your coworker is anxious to keep her job; she believes that it would be difficult to find another like it at the same rate of pay. The supervisor's disruptive conduct creates ongoing tension and a difficult working environment.
How your employer responded
You decided to report the offensive conduct to human resources. They listened, but nothing seems to have changed. The company is small. Although it is the employer's responsibility to correct offensive behavior and condemn harassment in the workplace, supervisors and upper management personnel tend to protect each other, apparently with little thought to the consequences for employees.
Action you can take
If human resources seems reluctant to work on this matter, you alone or you and your coworker can go outside the company to file a claim with either the EEOC or the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Remember that employees have rights, and a negligent employer may face liability if it fails to take corrective action about harassment in the workplace.