When people think about harassment on the job, they usually imagine that the problem has to happen multiple times or occur regularly to constitute an issue. In reality, even a single incident can constitute harassment, so it’s important to know your rights as an employee.
It is particularly true that a single problem with a coworker or employer could be enough to result in a claim. For example, an assault in the parking lot, cornering someone in an office for sexual purposes, or direct sexual harassment on paper or through email may be enough for someone to make a claim and report the incident to their employer or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
What’s the rule of thumb for determining if something is harassment?
Generally speaking, employees have to show that whatever happened was severe or pervasive enough to constitute harassment. Whether that harassment is sexual harassment, age discrimination and harassment, racial discrimination, or workplace bullying, a single event could be enough if it was severe enough.
It is hard to imagine anyone putting up with more than a single incident of sexual harassment (or any other form) that was significant enough to harm them mentally or physically. In cases where there was a particularly egregious offense, it may be possible to hold that person accountable and to take action against your employer if they do not take action themselves.
What can you do to prove that your case is severe enough after just one incident?
There are some ways to show that the situation was bad enough to constitute a claim. For example, some outright examples of harassment may include:
- Direct messages that you’re unwelcome for being a certain race or religion
- Sexual assault on the job
- Emails or messages containing sexual content or other discriminatory content
- A severe bullying case, such as attacking someone due to their race or destroying items in their office and replacing them with racist items
In these cases, keep photographs, medical records, police reports or other documents, and witness statements to help make your claim.
There are all kinds of negative situations that could constitute harassment after just one interaction. If you’re concerned about your safety at work or have been badly bullied or harassed, you deserve an opportunity to fight back.