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EEOC's Report on Common Sources of Workplace Harassment


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) established a task force which, for the past three (3) years, has been investigating the common causes or sources of workplace harassment. The goal of the study was to develop findings that can potentially lead to “significant and sustainable change” in that area. As a result of the extensive investigation, the EEOC task force has discovered nine (9) primary factors that most commonly lead to workplace harassment. This applies to all forms of harassment, not simply actionable sexual or racial harassment.

No. 1. The Workplace Lacks Diversity. Any work environment that is lacking in diversity makes minority employees more susceptible to harassment.

No. 2. Employees Segregated into “Silos.” The EEOC describes employees being separated into “silos” based on language or cultural differences. In these situations, there is a higher risk of tension between the different groups which leads to harassment. If employers can be proactive in establishing a more inclusive culture with appropriate policies, this can be mitigated.

No. 3. Harassment by Individuals with Power in the Company. The EEOC found that employees are less likely to report harassers who are in positions of power with the company because they believe that either the company will not do anything to remedy the situation or they believe they will be retaliated against if they complain. This can apply to harassers who are perceived to be in powerful positions either because of their job responsibilities or because of their achievements or recognition within the company.

No. 4. Work Situations that are Remote from Leadership. When an office or a particular shift is more remote from the leadership, meaning there are no supervisors or managers present, marginal employees are more likely to be targeted by harassers.

No. 5. Boredom at Work Leads to Inappropriate Behavior. It may seem pretty obvious, but jobs that are considered repetitive and routine or are described as “mindless” lead to employees becoming bored at work. As the EEOC points out, workers are more likely to engage in inappropriate and potentially harassing behavior due to the monotony they experience in their jobs.

No. 6. Alcohol Consumption. It probably goes without saying that alcohol consumption reduces social inhibitions and seriously impairs judgment for a lot of people. If individuals are allowed to drink at work or come to work intoxicated, then the risk of inappropriate and harassing behavior increases.

No. 7. Outside Issues Find Their Way into the Workplace. As recent events related to the current political climate have demonstrated, situations can quickly become highly charged with issues related to Black Lives Matter, immigration, and other social and political hot topics. When
employees look at what occurs “outside their work window” and perceive those attitudes and behaviors are acceptable they may believe the same is true in the workplace. Co-workers that do not share the same views may be subject to harassment on that basis.

No. 8. Younger Employees are Easy Targets. Employees who belong to the younger age groups (teens and young adults) are often more vulnerable to harassment because of their naivete or timidness, a fact that long-term or high-value employees may take advantage of in the workplace. The EEOC reports that younger employees are also less likely to take advantage of internal complaint procedures due to a lack of confidence.

No. 9. Employees Working in Customer Service Roles. Any employee that is required to interact directly with customers or clients is less likely to report harassing behavior for fear of retribution by the employer who fears losing customers or clients. However, employees are not required to tolerate clearly harassing behavior even from customers or clients.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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