Understanding the Background of Power Harassment in 2020

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power harassment

Power harassment is a form of workplace harassment that involves an individual in a higher position bullying somebody in a lower position. While employment law has been put in place to reduce cases of power harassment in the workplace, it is still prominent in the United States and other countries around the world.

Power harassment is distinguished from peer harassment which involves bullying at the same level in the workplace, and contra harassment, which involves bullying of a subordinate to a superior, by workplace rank and title. It comes in many forms and varying levels of severity, but all are wrong. As a leading employment lawyer in Dayton, Ohio, our firm works closely with individuals who have experienced power harassment at work to ensure employment law is adhered to and justice is served.

Let’s Begin.

Forms of Power Harassment at Work

At its core power harassment is a form of discrimination that focuses on a person’s rank in the corporate ladder, among other biases. Power harassment takes many shapes, including:

power harassment
  • Teasing and Bullying
  • Blackmail in the Form of Threat of Termination
  • Unwarranted Demotion or Penalization
  • Assigning of Additional Tasks Outside of Workplace Responsibilities
  • Invasion of Privacy
  • Intruding on Personal Life
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Psychological Abuse

If you or somebody you know are experiencing harassment at work, it is important to contact a harassment lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier a harassment lawyer is notified of the circumstances pertaining to your case, the greater the chance for a successful outcome as facts are fresh and evidence is easier to find. Even so, as a leading firm practicing employment law in Ohio, Dyer, Garofalo, Mann, & Schultz stand as a support for all victims of power harassment, no matter the timeline of the occurrences. 

Why Power Harassment is Wrong

All harassment is wrong, but power harassment puts the victim in the awkward place of being a subordinate to the abuser. In these situations, the victim may worry that reporting actions against the abuser could lead to a demotion, loss of a job, or further recourse from the abuser. Due to the political nature of power harassment, statistics show that many cases in the United States go undocumented, leaving men and women in peril.

Cases of harassment often involve the threat of additional work, work outside of a designated job space, personal favors, sexual abuse, and more. While there are varying degrees of harassment, from mild irritation and teasing to physical or sexual abuse, all harassment is wrong.

The History of Power Harassment

The term “power harassment” was first used in a published research paper by the University of Kentucky Communications professor, Ramona Rush. Her paper, published in 9 pages in the 1993 spring edition of the Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, outlined four major issues to be investigated in the harassment being used in the world of education. While Rush’s article pointed a finger at the unseen struggle of women in academia, her message was simple: employment law needs to change.

Rush’s use of the term, “power harassment” may have propelled the subject to recognition in the 1990’s, however, the struggle of misuse of power, especially between men and women, has been an ongoing issue since the introduction of women to the workforce in 1923. The Equal Rights Amendment gave women the right to work, and by the 1960’s, the feminist movement saw more women in the U.S. workforce than ever before.

While women in the workplace has made a huge impact on the regularity of harassment, especially in cases of sexual harassment, it is not limited to women. Men are mistreated by superiors in office and education as well. Historically men are less likely to come forward in cases of mistreatment and harassment than women.

How Power Harassment Has Shaped Employment Law in the United States

As reports of harassment become more frequent, employment law as changed to protect those being victimized. Changes have evolved slowly, including:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  • The Americans with Disabilities act of 1990
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

These acts are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The United States Government provides a list of traits which may not be discriminated on in the workforce or education settings, which include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Skin Color
  • Nationality of Origin
  • Genetic Information
  • Disability
  • Sexual Orientation

In power harassment, discrimination may have nothing to do with these traits. However, some cases of harassment may have ties to some alternative form of discrimination, which is why these legal acts must be severely adhered to in the workplace.

As the need for greater restrictions in employment law increases, so does the protection for those who report discrimination or harassment in the workplace. This is where power harassment lawyers become essential to providing those victimized in the workplace with the support and retribution necessary.

Why Understanding Power Harassment in 2020 is Essential

With more support for power harassment claims and tighter adherence to employment law in effect, there is still a great deal of work to be done in the realm of power harassment in the United States. The year 2020 has seen great leaps and strides since Rush’s 1993 publication, but to see further advancement in this area, more individuals affected by power harassment need to come forward.

Many Americans are still unsure of the true definition of power harassment. This leaves men and women in the workforce vulnerable. The first step to ending harassment of any kind is to point it out, report it, and resolve it. Hiring an employment lawyer in Dayton, Ohio vastly increases awareness of power harassment and increases your chances of resolution and relief.  


Quick Answers

Forms of Power Harassment

Teasing and Bullying
Blackmail in the Form of Threat of Termination
Unwarranted Demotion or Penalization
Assigning of Additional Tasks Outside of Workplace Responsibilities
Invasion of Privacy
Intruding on Personal Life
Physical Abuse
Sexual Abuse
Psychological Abuse

More about Harassment


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