Harassment is defined as verbal or physical conduct that shows hostility against individuals on the basis of one of the protected classes: race, color, national origin, age, nationality, religion, gender, marital status, sexual orientation or disability.

If an employee engages in conduct such as jokes, slurs, stereotyping, emails, printed materials or posters, touching, bullying, threats, put-downs or any other action that shows an aversion to one of these groups then they are committing harassment and the organization can be liable for damages in court.

Keep yourself from harassment in the workplace by following these guidelines:

Harassment can reduce productivity and morale, and put the organization in jeopardy law. All workplaces should have a comprehensive sexual harassment employee training program in place that trains employees how to avoid harassment.

Think about the effects of your actions. Harassment belittles and makes the victim feel inferior. Most people don’t want to make a co-worker feel this way. They simply act without thinking and simply assume their actions won’t bother anyone. If there is a chance that something you say will hurt another person, then don’t say it. Think first.

Stay away from dangerous subjects.  If pictures, jokes or slurs involve any of the above classes, then don’t say it! It might be perfectly OK to joke with a pregnant friend about how big she has become, but to a co-worker this type of talk is strictly off limits.

Do not let peer pressure cause you to act in ways that you normally would not act. The pressure to fit in and not go against the actions of a group begins in school and it doesn’t end when we are adults.

 These pressures have to be avoided at work or you may find yourself in the middle of a harassment suit. Ask yourself if you are going to behave like this in front of your children. If the answer is no, then it may not be OK in the workplace. This is a dead giveaway.