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Workplace harassment not yet a thing of the past

Think harassment in the workplace is a thing of the past? You'd be wrong. A new report shows that sexual, racial and ethnic harassment is still far too common in U.S. workplaces.

A new story by Time magazine, citing the results of a study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, found that one-third of discrimination charges received by the commission during the last fiscal year centered on workplace harassment.

According to the research, up to 60 percent of survey respondents said that they experienced harassment at work because of their race or ethnicity. Up to 58 percent of LGBT workers responding to the survey said that they heard derogatory comments about sexual orientation and gender identity while they were working. In addition, 41 percent told the commission that they had been verbally or physically abused or both at work or that someone had vandalized their work spaces.

The Time story said that half of transgender respondents said that they had suffered workplace harassment, with seven percent saying that they were physically assaulted while at work.

The actual incidences of workplace harassment might be even higher. That's because, as the story says, many victims never report harassment to their superiors. The commission's survey found that about three out of four people who have suffered through harassment at work never talked to a supervisor, manager or even a union representative about what happened.

The commission's report says that it is up to everyone in the workplace to work together to stop on-the-job harassment. This includes not just supervisors and human-resources professionals. It also includes workers who witness harassment to others. These workers should reports incidences of harassment to their own supervisors, according to the commission's report.

What should you do if you are a victim of harassment at work? Your first step should be to report the incident to a boss, supervisor or human-resources officer. Yes, this could be stressful. But by not reporting the problem, you are giving the offender the chance to harass someone else at your workplace.

You should also seek legal help. You might be entitled to damages for the harassment you've suffered. Workplace harassment cases can be complicated affairs. You need legal representation to help you work through the issues.

No one wants to be the victim of harassment at work. But if you are? Don't ignore the problem. Instead, seek out legal help. You deserve to work in a safe, harassment-free environment.

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