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When do rude comments cross the line into harassment?

Most people have experienced a rude coworker in their career. It is difficult to know how to respond to repeated derogatory comments, especially when they say that it is, "just a joke." You don't want to overreact but when the comments keep getting worse then you must draw a line. It's important to know when coworkers step over that line from joking into harassment.

Harassment comes in many forms

Although sexual harassment is the most often reported, harassment comes in many forms. Someone can harass you based on your race, age, religion and sexual orientation. The law doesn't protect people against rude comments, but it can protect you against a hostile work environment. Know that harassment becomes illegal when:

1. Offensive comments become a common occurance

2. The comments are intimidating, abusive, or hostile

Examples of harassment can include:

  • Telling lewd jokes or sexual stories
  • Saying negative things about your religion
  • Making sexual comments about your body or clothing
  • Telling racist jokes
  • Making derogatory comments about your age

These are just a handful of examples. Harassment does not always have to be verbal either. Making inappropriate gestures, hanging offensive pictures and inappropriate touching are also considered harassment.

What can victims of harassment do?

If you are experiencing harassment at work then you might feel like you don't even want to step into work tomorrow. You might feel embarrassed or worried for your safety. The first step is to tell the harasser that their behavior is unwelcome and needs to stop. From there you can inform your boss or HR about the issue, especially if you fear for your safety.

While these steps are recommended by the EEOC, they are not always possible for everyone. If a server has been enduring sexual comments from coworkers and she tells them to stop, they might just laugh it off and continue. If an office manager has dealt with religious harassment from their boss, then who can he turn to? Everyone's circumstances are different. If you are facing continuous harassment in your workplace then contact an attorney right away. They can help you put an end to the harassment and gain compensation for the abuse that you have endured.

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