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The slippery slope of workplace harassment begins with defining it

A vendor that regularly visits your company can’t seem to ever leave the premises without first telling a few off-color jokes. A handful of office regulars generally seem to find his puns humorous and a welcome respite to workplace routine. Others are often offended.

An office manager at your business firm routinely schedules performance checkups in his office. Workers dutifully sit before him to discuss work matters, clearly noting each time pinned-up images behind his desk of a sexual nature.

Perhaps a supervisor mimics the accent of select foreign workers at the company. Maybe it’s the case that an executive is excessively physical with employees, routinely greeting them with hugs and kisses.

Are any of those scenarios troublesome? Conversely, are any of them not offensive and a threat to workplace cohesion and morale?

And, importantly, do any of them cross the line where questionable conduct morphs into something offensive that can actually become legally actionable as harassment or discrimination?

As this blog headline notes above, the cross-over line where something questionable or objectionable becomes legally indefensible can sometimes be a bit hard to see clearly. The line is subjective and not always equally visible to all parties.

At other times, though, there is simply little doubt that a comment, remark, physical action, displayed image or something else is simply taboo. It is harassment, pure and simple, going beyond a mere isolated incident or annoyance to something that fuels a hostile work environment.

That brings repercussions if a worker or band of employees takes purposeful action through official company channels or formal litigation in a state or federal court. Companies can suffer material downsides when they fail to recognize and respond appropriately to workplace harassment.

Both employers and workers often have questions and concerns regarding on-the-job harassment. They can contact proven employment law attorneys for answers and, when necessary, diligent legal representation.

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