Workplace harassment is a common issue in the professional world, negatively affecting employee well-being and organizational success. From subtle bullying to overt discrimination, it can create a toxic atmosphere that decreases productivity and morale. 

Understanding the complexities of harassment is crucial for businesses striving to create a safe and respectful work environment.

Harassment takes many forms, including verbal, psychological, physical, and sexual. Regardless of its exposure, all types of harassment damage employees' sense of security and can expose organizations to legal liabilities. Despite increased awareness, many individuals still hesitate to report harassment, promoting a culture of silence.

This blog explores workplace harassment types & examples to help you recognize and address such behavior. 

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, nearly 1 in 2 workers have experienced sexual harassment and violence in the last two years at the workplace. This data highlights the need to deal with this issue as a problem and determine the causes, types, and preventive measures in detail. 

By exploring the prevalence and impact of harassment, we can create environments where harassment is not tolerated at all! 

Types of Workplace Harassment


Workplace harassment encompasses a range of behaviors that create a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment for employees. 

Understanding these types is crucial for employers and employees to recognize, address, and prevent harassment effectively. Some common types of workplace harassment include:

  1. Sexual harassment

  2. Discrimination

  3. Bullying

  4. Cyber harassment

  5. Verbal harassment

  6. Physical harassment

  7. Religious harassment

  8. Ethnic harassment

  9. Social media harassment

  10. Retaliation

  11. Appearance-based harassment

  12. Marital status harassment

Let’s explore each of these harassment types in detail with examples so you can understand the early signs better. 

Canada Safety Training offers comprehensive Workplace Harassment Awareness Training to help employees and employers prevent, address, and report harassment incidents. 

1. Sexual Harassment


Sexual harassment is a form of harassment characterized by unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. 

It can occur between individuals of the same or different genders and may involve a power imbalance between the harasser and the victim.


Examples of sexual harassment may include:

1. Unwanted advances: Persistent requests for dates, sexual favors, or romantic relationships despite clear rejection or discomfort expressed by the recipient.

2. Inappropriate comments or jokes: Sexually suggestive remarks, jokes, or innuendos that make others feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or offended.

3. Display of explicit material: Showing pornographic images, videos, or other sexually explicit content in the workplace, whether in physical form or through electronic means such as email or social media.

By understanding the different types of sexual harassment in the workplace, organizations can implement policies, procedures, and training programs to prevent and address these behaviors effectively. 

Employers must foster a culture of respect, inclusion, and accountability to create a safe and supportive work environment for all employees.

2. Discrimination


Discrimination in the workplace involves treating individuals unfairly or unequally based on specific protected characteristics. 

This type of harassment can manifest in various forms and significantly impact employees' well-being and job satisfaction.


Examples of discrimination may include:

1. Racial discrimination: Treating someone unfavorably because of their race or ethnicity, such as denying job opportunities, promotions, or equal pay based on racial stereotypes.

2. Gender discrimination: Discriminating against individuals based on their gender identity or expression, including unequal treatment in hiring, job assignments, or opportunities for advancement.

3. Age discrimination: Targeting individuals for adverse treatment based on their age, such as passing over older workers for promotions or training opportunities or subjecting younger workers to harassment or exclusion.

4. Disability discrimination: Failing to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, denying them equal access to employment opportunities, or subjecting them to harassment or exclusion based on their disability status.

Addressing discrimination requires proactive measures such as promoting diversity and inclusion, providing anti-discrimination training, and enforcing policies that prohibit discrimination in all its forms. 

3. Bullying


Bullying in the workplace involves repeated mistreatment, harassment, or aggressive behavior directed towards an individual or group. 

This behavior is often intended to intimidate, humiliate, or exert control over others, creating a hostile work environment.


Examples of bullying are listed as follows: 

1. Verbal abuse:

Bullying through verbal abuse can include insults, derogatory remarks, yelling, or belittling comments directed at an individual. This behavior undermines the victim's confidence and self-esteem, creating emotional distress.

2. Intimidation:

Bullying through intimidation involves threats, aggressive gestures, or other actions intended to instill fear in the victim. This behavior may include aggressive posturing, invading personal space, or making veiled threats of harm.

3. Social exclusion:

Bullying through social exclusion involves deliberately isolating an individual or group from workplace activities, conversations, or social interactions. This behavior can take the form of excluding someone from meetings, events, or team projects, leading to feelings of isolation and marginalization.

4. Sabotaging work:

Bullying through sabotage involves deliberately undermining or interfering with an individual's work or projects. This behavior may include withholding vital information, spreading false rumors, or intentionally setting someone up for failure. Sabotage can severely affect the victim's productivity, reputation, and job performance.

Addressing bullying requires clear policies and procedures for reporting and addressing incidents and training programs to raise awareness and promote a culture of respect and civility in the workplace. 

Employers must take proactive measures to prevent bullying and support victims, fostering an inclusive work environment for all employees.

4. Cyber Harassment


Cyber harassment, also known as online harassment or cyberbullying, refers to the use of digital communication channels to harass, intimidate, or threaten individuals. 

This harassment occurs through various online platforms, including social media, email, messaging apps, and online forums.


Here are the examples of cyber harassment you need to explore: 

1. Online threats:

Cyber harassment may involve sending threatening messages, emails, or comments to an individual intending to intimidate or cause fear. These threats can range from physical harm to emotional or psychological distress.

2. Cyberbullying:

Cyberbullying involves the repeated harassment, humiliation, or intimidation of an individual through digital platforms. This can include posting derogatory comments, spreading rumors, or sharing embarrassing photos or videos online to embarrass or shame the victim.

3. Spreading false information online:

Perpetrators of cyber harassment may spread false or defamatory information about an individual online to damage their reputation or credibility. This can include spreading rumors, false accusations, or fabricated stories to harm the victim's personal or professional life.

4. Hacking and unauthorized access:

Cyber harassment may also involve unauthorized access to an individual's accounts or devices, such as hacking into their social media accounts, email accounts, or electronic devices. This invasion of privacy can lead to the theft of sensitive information, identity theft, or the dissemination of private and confidential data.

Cyber harassment can have severe consequences for victims, including emotional distress, reputational damage, and even physical harm in some cases. 

Organizations need to implement policies and measures to prevent and address cyber harassment in the workplace, including providing education and training on safe online practices.

5. Verbal Harassment


Verbal harassment involves using spoken or written words to intimidate, degrade, or humiliate an individual. 

This type of harassment can occur in various settings, including the workplace, and can have severe psychological and emotional effects on the victim.


Examples of  verbal harassment may include:

1. Offensive language:

Verbal harassment may involve using offensive or derogatory language directed at an individual. This can include racial slurs, sexist remarks, or other forms of language that target a person's identity or characteristics.

2. Insults and name-calling:

Verbal harassment often includes insults, name-calling, or personal attacks to belittle or demean the victim. This can involve calling someone derogatory names, mocking their appearance, or criticizing their abilities or performance.

Verbal harassment can create a hostile work environment and negatively impact the victim's self-esteem, mental health, and overall well-being. 

Bystander intervention training can empower employees to speak up and intervene when they witness verbal harassment, creating a culture of accountability and mutual respect.

6. Physical Harassment


Physical harassment involves using force or contact to intimidate, harm, or assert power over another individual. 

This form of harassment can range from subtle actions to overt acts of aggression and violence.


Here are some common examples of physical harassment: 

1. Physical assault:

This includes any intentional physical attack or aggressive behavior that causes harm or injury to another person. It can involve hitting, punching, kicking, or other forms of physical violence.

2. Inappropriate touching:

Physical harassment may also involve unwanted or inappropriate touching of a person's body without their consent. This can include grabbing, groping, or touching someone sexually against their will.

Physical harassment in the workplace creates a threatening and unsafe environment for employees and can have severe physical and psychological consequences for the victim. 

Organizations need to have clear policies in place prohibiting physical harassment and to take swift and decisive action to address any reports of such behavior. 

This includes conducting thorough investigations, supporting victims, and implementing disciplinary measures against perpetrators.

7. Religious Harassment


Religious harassment occurs when an individual is targeted or mistreated based on their religious beliefs or practices. 

It involves discriminatory actions or behaviors that create a hostile or offensive environment for individuals of specific religious affiliations.


Understanding the signs of harassment is essential to implement preventive strategies. Here are some of the examples of religious harassment: 

1. Offensive remarks about religious beliefs:

This can include derogatory comments, jokes, or slurs directed at an individual's religious faith or practices. It may involve ridiculing or belittling someone's religious beliefs, customs, or traditions, creating a demeaning or disrespectful atmosphere.

2. Exclusion based on religious practices:

Religious harassment may also manifest through the exclusion or marginalization of individuals due to their religious practices or observances. This can involve isolating individuals from social activities, work-related events, or professional opportunities based on their religious affiliations or customs.

Religious harassment in the workplace opposes the principles of diversity, inclusion, and respect for individual beliefs. It can lead to feelings of alienation, anxiety, and discrimination among employees who are targeted based on their religious identity. 

Furthermore, religious harassment can have disastrous effects on employee morale, productivity, and overall well-being.

Employers have a legal and ethical responsibility to address religious harassment and ensure all employees are treated with dignity and respect. 

This involves implementing clear policies and procedures prohibiting religious discrimination and harassment, training employees on diversity and inclusion, and fostering a culture of tolerance and acceptance.

Additionally, organizations should encourage open communication and provide outlets for employees to report incidents of religious harassment confidentially and without fear of retaliation. 

8. Ethnic Harassment


Ethnic harassment occurs when individuals are targeted or mistreated based on their ethnicity, nationality, or cultural background. 

It involves discriminatory actions or behaviors that create a hostile or offensive environment for individuals of specific ethnic or cultural identities.


Examples of ethnic harassment may include:

1. Mocking cultural practices:

Ethnic harassment may involve making fun of or belittling the cultural practices, traditions, or customs associated with a particular ethnic group. This can include ridiculing someone's language, accent, attire, food preferences, or religious ceremonies, creating a demeaning or disrespectful atmosphere.

2. Stereotyping based on ethnicity:

Ethnic harassment can also manifest through the perpetuation of stereotypes or generalizations about individuals based on their ethnicity or nationality.

This may include assuming specific characteristics, behaviors, or abilities about someone solely based on their ethnic background, leading to unfair treatment or discrimination.

Ethnic harassment in the workplace undermines the principles of diversity, inclusion, and respect for individual differences. 

It can lead to feelings of marginalization, alienation, and discrimination among employees who are targeted based on their ethnicity or cultural identity. 

Additionally, ethnic harassment can contribute to a hostile work environment, negatively impacting employee morale, productivity, and overall well-being.

Employers have a legal and ethical obligation to address ethnic harassment and ensure all employees are treated with dignity and respect. 

This involves encouraging open dialogue and providing channels for employees to report incidents of ethnic harassment confidentially and without fear of retaliation.

9. Social Media Harassment


Social media harassment refers to using digital platforms, such as social networking sites, messaging apps, or online forums, to engage in harassing or abusive behavior towards individuals. 

It encompasses various forms of online misconduct that can have adverse effects on victims' mental well-being and personal lives.


Understanding the examples of social media harassment is essential to prevent these incidents in the future. Here are the examples of social media harassment: 

1. Harassment through social media platforms:

This involves sending harassing messages, comments, or posts directly to individuals on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Harassers may use these platforms to insult, threaten, or intimidate their targets, often hiding behind anonymous accounts to avoid detection.

2. Spreading rumors online:

Social media harassment can also entail spreading false or damaging information about someone online to harm their reputation or social standing.

This may include sharing rumors, gossip, or fabricated stories about individuals, which can lead to public humiliation, ostracization, or professional repercussions.

Social media harassment poses unique challenges due to online platforms' widespread reach and anonymity. Victims can experience feelings of distress, anxiety, or fear of retaliation as a result of being targeted online. 

The 24/7 nature of social media means that harassment can occur at any time, increasing its negative impact on victims' lives.

Addressing social media harassment requires proactive measures to protect individuals from online abuse and create safer digital environments. 

Social media platforms are crucial in combating harassment by enforcing community standards, providing reporting mechanisms for users to flag abusive content, and taking swift action against perpetrators. 

By working with employers, law enforcement agencies, and online platforms, individuals can better protect themselves and others from the harmful effects of social media harassment.

10. Retaliation


Retaliation in the workplace occurs when an employer or co-worker takes adverse action against an individual in response to their engagement in protected activities, such as reporting workplace harassment or discrimination. 

It involves punishing or seeking retribution against employees for exercising their legal rights or speaking out against misconduct.


Examples of retaliation mainly include:

1. Punishing employees for reporting harassment:

This form of retaliation involves subjecting individuals who have reported workplace harassment to adverse treatment or negative consequences. It may include demotion, denial of promotions or opportunities, reduced work hours or responsibilities, or unwarranted disciplinary actions.

By retaliating against victims, employers may attempt to discourage others from coming forward with complaints or seeking redress for misconduct.

2. Threatening retaliation against whistleblowers:

In some cases, employers or colleagues may explicitly threaten or intimidate individuals who have exposed wrongdoing or misconduct within the organization. This can involve direct threats of termination, demotion, or other reprisal to deter employees from whistleblowing or speaking out against unethical or illegal practices. Such actions create a hostile work environment and undermine employees' confidence in reporting misconduct or seeking help.

Retaliation compromises employees' rights and creates a culture of silence and fear within organizations, where individuals are discouraged from reporting harassment or discrimination for fear of reprisal. 

It destroys trust in leadership, diminishes morale, and hinders efforts to address and prevent workplace misconduct effectively.

To deal with retaliation, organizations must prioritize creating a culture of accountability, transparency, and respect where individuals feel empowered to report harassment or wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. 

11. Appearance-Based Harassment


Appearance-based harassment occurs when an individual is subjected to derogatory or discriminatory treatment based on their physical appearance, including characteristics such as body size, clothing choices, or grooming habits. 

This type of harassment targets aspects of a person's appearance that may be perceived as different or deviating from societal norms, leading to embarrassment, humiliation, or insecurity.


Here are the prominent examples of appearance-based harassment: 

1. Ridiculing someone based on physical appearance:

This harassment involves making fun of or mocking an individual's physical attributes, such as weight, height, facial features, or body shape. It may include derogatory comments, jokes, or gestures intended to belittle or demean the person based on appearance.

Ridiculing someone for their physical appearance can have profound psychological effects, contributing to low self-esteem, body image issues, and emotional distress.

2. Negative comments about clothing or grooming:

Appearance-based harassment can also manifest through disparaging remarks or criticism regarding an individual's clothing choices, hairstyle, or grooming practices. This may involve comments about the appropriateness of attire, judgments about personal hygiene, or scrutiny of fashion preferences.

Negative comments about appearance can make individuals feel self-conscious or ashamed of their choices, leading to anxiety, stress, or feelings of inadequacy in the workplace.

Appearance-based harassment creates harmful stereotypes and biases, reinforcing societal norms around beauty standards and exerting pressure on individuals to conform to unrealistic ideals. 

It can create a toxic work environment where employees feel judged or marginalized based on their physical attributes rather than their skills or qualifications. 

To address appearance-based harassment, organizations must promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, creating a culture that values individuals' unique qualities and respects differences in appearance. 

By promoting acceptance and inclusivity, organizations can create a more supportive and respectful workplace environment for all employees.

12. Marital Status Harassment


Marital status harassment involves discrimination or mistreatment based on an individual's marital status, whether they are single, married, divorced, or in a domestic partnership. 

This type of harassment targets an employee's relationships and can result in unfair treatment, exclusion, or invasive questioning about their marital status.


Examples of marital status harassment are listed as follows:

1. Discrimination based on marital status:

Employees may experience harassment or discrimination in the workplace due to their marital status. This could include being passed over for promotions, denied opportunities, or subjected to adverse treatment because of their relationship status.

For example, a single employee may be excluded from social gatherings or networking events traditionally reserved for married colleagues, leading to feelings of isolation or exclusion.

2. Inappropriate inquiries about personal relationships:

Harassment based on marital status can also involve intrusive or inappropriate questioning about an employee's personal life. Colleagues or supervisors may make unwelcome comments or inquiries about an individual's relationship status, such as asking probing questions about their romantic partners, marriage plans, or family circumstances.

These inquiries can make employees feel uncomfortable, violated, or pressured to disclose private information about their personal lives.

Marital status harassment compromises an employee's right to privacy and dignity in the workplace.

Employers are responsible for creating a work environment that respects employees' boundaries and prohibits discrimination based on marital status. 

By promoting inclusivity and respect for individuals' personal lives, organizations can create a more supportive workplace for all employees, regardless of marital status.

Final Words

Workplace harassment includes a wide range of behaviors that can have significant negative impacts on individuals and organizations. 

From sexual harassment and discrimination to bullying and cyber harassment, the various types of harassment affect workplace morale, productivity, and employee well-being. This is the main reason we have discussed workplace harassment types & examples in detail. 

This blog can help employees and employers recognize the importance of addressing and reporting workplace harassment effectively.

By implementing clear policies, providing comprehensive training, and creating a culture of accountability, organizations can create safer and more inclusive work environments and prevent possible incidents of harassment. 

Employers must also address underlying issues such as substance abuse and mental health challenges that may contribute to or exacerbate harassment behaviors.

Confidential support systems and proper channels for reporting incidents can help employees speak up and seek assistance when they experience or witness harassment.

By prioritizing prevention and creating a culture of respect and accountability, employers can easily protect their employees from harm and create a safe and productive work environment for everyone!