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What is Physical Harassment?

Physical harassment refers to any unwanted and inappropriate physical contact or conduct that can cause discomfort, harm, or intimidation. It encompasses a range of behaviors from touching, slapping, hitting, to more severe forms of violence. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), physical harassment is a form of workplace discrimination that violates laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Statistics show that physical harassment remains a significant issue. For instance, the National Safety Council reported that in 2019, 20,870 workers in the private industry experienced trauma from workplace violence. It's crucial for employers to establish clear policies, provide training, and enforce measures to prevent physical harassment, ensuring a safe environment for all employees.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Physical harassment refers to methods of coercement, threats, or bullying that involve physical gestures or threats. There are many different forms this type of behavior can take, from blocking someone's path to the threat of physical violence. Workplaces and schools often have strict guidelines regarding this form of intimidation or abuse; in some areas, there are legal penalties for harassment as well.

Defining physical harassment can be tricky, as it involves the relative effect of the perpetrator's actions. For some people, physical gestures such as punching or playful shoving can be an acceptable level of behavior between friends. The same behavior can be defined as harassment if the person on the receiving end is offended or feels threatened or uncomfortable. Abiding by professional guidelines and being sensitive to the reactions of others can help reduce confusion over what type of behavior is acceptable.

Physical harassment can lead to physical abuse.
Physical harassment can lead to physical abuse.

Often, physical harassment is used to frighten or threaten another person into performing an act or behaving a certain way. This type of behavior is often known as bullying, and can be a serious problem at school, work, or in personal relationships. People may threaten violence in order to get something they want, or to simply make another person feel insecure or afraid. Many people are afraid to bring bullying harassment to authorities in fear of being physically harmed by the bully.

Physical harassment may occur at school.
Physical harassment may occur at school.

Although bullies often employ threats and violence in order to get something they want, some also physically harass people they simply do not like. Throughout history, certain groups of the population have been subject to frequent and serious physical harassment issues, particularly if they threaten the status quo of the bullies. During the civil rights movement in America, many demonstrators were harassed and abused for protesting segregation and unconstitutional behavior. It is an unfortunate and regular problem that discussions of extending civil rights often result in harassment of the group in question.

It's essential that all employees feel that grievances related to workplace violence or harassment can be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.
It's essential that all employees feel that grievances related to workplace violence or harassment can be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.

In some cases, physical harassment can turn into physical or sexual abuse. If a person inappropriately touches another, or threatens physical violence if sexual favors are not performed, it is typically considered sexual abuse. Like all forms of abuse, this event can be severely traumatic for the abused party and may result in severe stress and psychological repercussions. The possibility of a progression from harassment to abuse is one of the reasons why many experts say that all instances of harassment or threats need to be reported to authorities and handled immediately by those in charge.

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 MyLawQuestions writer.

Learn more...
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 MyLawQuestions writer.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon174457

The people who do this stuff need to be locked up for life, not just for five years or something like that. For life. Physical and verbal harassment are terrible, and no one like that should be let back out on the streets. It could happen again. Lock up the bad guys. Keep our world safe!

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    • Physical harassment can lead to physical abuse.
      By: AlexandreNunes
      Physical harassment can lead to physical abuse.
    • Physical harassment may occur at school.
      By: michaeljung
      Physical harassment may occur at school.
    • It's essential that all employees feel that grievances related to workplace violence or harassment can be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.
      By: redav
      It's essential that all employees feel that grievances related to workplace violence or harassment can be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.
    • Physical harassment often includes the threat of violent behaviors.
      By: Monkey Business
      Physical harassment often includes the threat of violent behaviors.
    • Physical harassment that is not dealt with can turn into abuse.
      By: bertys30
      Physical harassment that is not dealt with can turn into abuse.