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How to Maintain a Responsible Workplace

Hostile Workplace Environment Harassment.  People who learn about this type of harassment are often surprised about what can constitute it.

This type of harassment may be direct or indirect, intentional or not.  It exists whenever the perpetrator’s words, actions or body language contribute to creating an uncomfortable working environment for its victim.  Again, it is important to know that the victim does not need to have been directly targeted in order to suffer this type of harassment.  Merely being in the presence of the offending behavior may be enough.  The measure of hostility in an environment is the extent to which is has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.


  • Teasing;
  • Sharing inappropriate jokes or forwarding emails that could be found to be offensive;
  • Using demeaning terms;
  • Using crude and offensive language;
  • Touching, patting, pinching, massaging an employee’s body;
  • Physical restraint, such as blocking a doorway;
  • Displaying sexually suggestive pictures;
  • Using indecent gestures;
  • Nonverbal intimidation such as glaring, leering, staring, etc.

It is important to know that your working environment extends to members of the public and /or clients.


  • Hostile Workplace Environment Harassment can exist in supervisor /employee relationships, in co-worker relationships or in relationships with the public or clients.
  • Hostile Workplace Environment Harassment may be a form of sexual harassment but not necessarily.
  • Enforcing common-sense rules of professional conduct in the workplace and /or on work time is the best way to prevent this type of harassment.  For example:
    • No touching is necessary at work.
    • No displaying of suggestive images is permitted at work.
    • No name-calling, however humorously intended, is allowed.
    • No discussion of sexual activities is permitted at work.
    • Employees who are the subject of any complaint will be counseled, disciplined if appropriate, up to and including termination depending upon the results of an investigation.

For Employees:

  • Keep your eyes and ears open. If you witness any behavior that seems inappropriate (intimidating, sexually-charged or otherwise disrespectful), it is your responsibility to address it then and there, intervening verbally if your safety is not threatened.  Always report the incident you witnessed to your manager or another officer of the company.  Also document the incident you witnessed as well as any intervention you may have made.
  • Do not allow any behavior of the kind described in the examples above, even if you don’t think it is offending anyone.
  • Remember, anytime you are in a public area, or interact with clients or anyone outside the company, you become representatives of your company.
  • If someone makes any discomfort known to you or if you become aware of it, report it promptly to Management and/or to Human Resources so that an investigation may be initiated.
  • If someone confides in you regarding an incident of perceived harassment, make that person aware that you would only tell on a ‘need-to-know’ basis but cannot promise anonymity or confidentiality. Again, it is your responsibility (even from a legal standpoint) to take it seriously and to initiate the process of investigation by telling your supervisor or Human Resources.  If your supervisor is the one who is being accused, tell your supervisor’s supervisor.

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