Many of us consider our workplace as an extension of our homes since we spend a substantial chunk of our days there. Unfortunately, some people do not feel safe in their workplace because of supervisors, coworkers and even clients whose behavior creates an uncomfortable environment for them.
Sadly, many workplace harassers get away with their conduct because they downplay their acts or statements as jokes. In turn, victims hesitate to act on their situation for fear that others may think they are difficult to get along.
It is not an excuse
While some jokes are harmless, jokes that are offensive and create a hostile environment for an employee are unlawful. Let us say your coworker made a comment about how inviting your outfit is, then later claiming it was a joke. Them saying it was a joke does not lessen the impact of their sexually harassing behavior and comment. Moreover, it does not revoke your right to report their behavior to your human resources department.
The same applies to teasing and offhand comments that occur frequently. It is common for coworkers to have a friendly banter, but if it happens often that it already seems targeting and uncomfortable, then it becomes sexual harassment.
Holding them accountable
No matter how much your harasser downplays their actions, you must stand your ground. Actively calling out and pursuing actions against harassers help stop the toleration of inappropriate jokes masked as friendly banter.
There are multiple internal and legal remedies you can pursue to hold your harasser accountable. If you are unsure what your next step should be, seeking guidance from a compassionate legal representative can help you find the most suitable option for you.