Harvey Weinstein has been in the headlines for a few days now. In case you missed it, Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax and the Weinstein Company, and a big name in the international film industry, has been accused of sexual harassment and rape by multiple women, including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow who have worked with him in the past. Meryl Streep and Judi Dench have said that they had no idea this was happening and that not everybody knew about it. Kate Winslet acknowledged that there were rumours but she had hoped they were untrue. Jessica Chastain, too, accepted that she had heard stories and that she had been warned from the beginning about Weinstein. Male stars like George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, all of whose films were produced by Weinstein, have denounced him.
Which brings us to addressing the confusion that still exists amongst many of us about what classifies as and the different types of workplace harassment.
So what is workplace harassment?
When an employee faces unwelcome verbal, mental or physical discrimination/advances by their boss or even another colleague, it is classified as harassment. An act by an individual that interferes with an employee's success at work also qualifies for the same. It is a punishable offence and one should consult a lawyer to begin a lawsuit against the company if they feel like they're being harassed.
Gender, racial and religious equality is a fundamental right, guaranteed to every individual by the Indian Constitution. This applies to your workplace as well.
Following are some common ways one could be getting harassed at work:
1. Verbal Harassment
- If someone asks for sexual favours, in person or on text.
- If someone persistently asks you out on a date, after you having declined several times.
- If someone threatens to hurt you physically or your career growth.
- If someone directs discriminating comments towards you - about your gender, age, religion, disability etc.
2. Physical Harassment
- If someone touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable (this could even be disguised as a congratulatory 'pat on the back')
- If someone makes vulgar or lewd gestures or expressions
- If someone tries to force physical punishment on you
3. Mental Harassment
- If someone gives you unrealistic amounts of work and impossible deadlines, while others sit idle.
- If someone deliberately gives you no work to do (as a way of causing job anxiety)
- If someone suggests that you would benefit at work if you participated in unethical practices
4. Visual Harassment
- If someone forwards inappropriate content to you (a vulgar joke, a racial meme, etc.)
- If someone shares sexual or pornographic content with you.
There are many others ways one could be getting harassed at work other than these. Every case and situation is different. You should always be on the lookout for troubling signs - not just for yourself but others around you as well. Report them to an in-house committee or reach out to a lawyer for advice.