Understanding Different Types of Harassment

What is Harassment?

Often harassment is based on an individual’s view of what is acceptable and what is not. The Oxford Dictionary defines harassment as:

  • To torment (someone) by subjecting them to constant interference or intimidation.
  • To make repeated small-scale attacks on (an enemy) in order to wear down resistance.

Types of Harassment

There are many types of harassment, including:

  • Verbal: Where threatening words or phrases are spoken
  • Physical: Where someone is treated in a physically intimidating manner
  • Sexual: Where inappropriate sexual advances are made
  • Visual: Where inappropriate material is visible (such as centerfolds on an office wall)
  • Gender: Demeaning behavior to another person based on that person’s gender
  • Cyber: Where harassment takes place via computer

Throughout this course, we will typically discuss sexual harassment. However, the strategies covered will, in general, work for all types of harassment.

Legal Definitions

Let’s look at some legal definitions of sexual harassment.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, commissioner of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, 1980

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such [an] individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Supreme Court of Canada (Janzen and Govereau v. Platy Enterprises, 1989)

Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which detrimentally affects the work environment, or leads to adverse job-related consequences for victims of harassment.

European Community Code of Practice

Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex, affecting the dignity of women and men at work. This can include unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct.