How can I Deal with Discrimination and Harassment?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Discrimination and harassment are often unpleasant, and frequently downright illegal behaviors in school, in public, and in the workplace. Dealing with discrimination and harassment may require different methods in different situations; there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution for every issue. In order to better understand how to deal with discrimination and harassment, it is important to understand the issues and know the possible legal and ethical options for the situation.

Discrimination and harassment may occur at school.
Discrimination and harassment may occur at school.

Though often related, discrimination and harassment are two separate issues. Discrimination refers to situations where a person is judged based on the category he or she belongs to rather than on individual capabilities. Gender discrimination, for instance, might be believing that a man shouldn't raise a child alone because all men are lazy and don't know how to change diapers. Harassment refers to the physical, sexual, or psychological intimidation of a person, and may be based on any number of factors. Harassment is often easier to prove than discrimination, since discrimination relies more on personal motives than outwardly expressed actions.

Gender discrimination is accepted in some countries.
Gender discrimination is accepted in some countries.

Dealing with discrimination and harassment can be difficult, as both situations tend to put the victim in a position of powerlessness. A person who believes he or she is discriminated against may be unlikely to raise the issue because he or she may already be in a prejudicial situation and will not be treated fairly. A person being harassed may fear bringing the issue up for fear of increased harassment as a result. In some cases, simply bringing up the issue with the aggressor may be enough to stop the situation, but this does not always work. Though some experts suggest trying to work out both types of issue first with the person or people directly involved, this is neither possible nor safe in all situations.

Dealing with discrimination and harassment can be difficult.
Dealing with discrimination and harassment can be difficult.

If working out discrimination and harassment on a one-to-one level is impossible, it is important to get authorities involved as quickly as possible. At school, this usually means alerting a teacher or counselor to the situation. At work, this may mean involving a boss or supervisor. In personal life, there may be no direct authority figure, meaning that the best options beyond talking to the aggressor directly are avoiding him or her, or going to the police in cases of harassment. It may help to try and gather evidence of the situation, such as threatening emails or evidence of pranks, or a list of instances in which the problem has occurred.

Unfortunately, discrimination and harassment sometimes occur because immediate authorities are lax about behavioral policies or even encourage the behavior through their own actions. In this case, it is important to know applicable laws about discrimination and harassment. In many regions, it is possible to sue a business or school for allowing harassment and discrimination. If authorities refuse to handle a situation where a person under their care is being discriminated against or harassed, a civil lawyer may be able to explain legal options and pursue action in the case.

It's essential that all employees feel that grievances related to workplace discrimination and harassment will be dealt with fairly, promptly, and without fear of retribution.
It's essential that all employees feel that grievances related to workplace discrimination and harassment will be dealt with fairly, promptly, and without fear of retribution.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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