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Verbal Harassment (What It Is And How It Works: Overview)

What is Verbal Harassment?

What is considered verbal harassment?

How does it work?

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s see what verbal harassment means and how it works!

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Let’s get started!

What Is Verbal Harassment

Verbal harassment is a term used to refer to the language used by someone causing emotional or psychological harm to another.

In other words, to be verbally harassed is to be the victim of verbal abuse.

Some may say verbal discrimination, verbal abuse, verbal assault, or verbal harassment but in general the proper term to use is verbal harassment when a person is mocked, ridiculed or emotionally abused.

The notion of verbal harassment can be quite broad and encompass a wide variety of verbal attacks, such as:

  • Jokes
  • Slurs
  • Name-calling
  • Insults
  • Yelling
  • Mocking 
  • Innuendoes 

In many jurisdictions, verbal harassment can lead to potentially criminal accusations to the extent the prosecutor is able to prove the elements of the crime.

In most cases, however, verbal harassment can lead to civil liability where the wrongdoer may be held accountable for damages suffered.

It is frequent that verbal harassment complaints are filed in the workplace where you may have employees and colleagues that are in conflict for various reasons.

Let’s define “harassment” to better understand the concept of “verbal harassment”.

Harassment Definition

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term harassment is defined as follows:

To annoy or bother (someone) in a constant or repeated way
Author

As you can see from this definition, harassment means:

  • When a person
  • Bothers or annoys 
  • Another person
  • Constantly or in a repeated way

Verbal Harassment Definition

My definition of verbal harassment is as follows:

Verbal statements, comments, or language used by one person to bother or annoy another in a constant and repeated fashion
Author

As a result, to be harassed verbally is to be the subject of repeated verbal statements intended to bother, hurt, or cause emotional distress.

Verbal Harassment Laws

In many jurisdictions, there have been more and more laws and statutes ratified to control and protect victims of harassment, including unlawful verbal harassment.

As individuals living in society, we must deal with family, friends, colleagues, bosses, business partners, service providers, and many other people on a daily basis.

Most of the time, the communications are harmless and do not cause any particular harm to those communicating with one another.

However, there are instances where a person may use communication as a tool or weapon to verbally abuse and harass another.

If that happens, you fall within the definition of verbal harassment where someone is using language causing another person to suffer emotionally or psychologically.

If a person is found in violation of verbal harassment laws, he or she may face severe consequences such as jail time, heavy fines, restraining orders, rehabilitation programs, community service, probation, and other types of punishment.

Over the past decades, verbal abuse at work laws and statutes have been adopted and modified to further protect individuals from harassment of any kind whether it’s physical, verbal, or sexual in nature.

Verbal Harassment In The Workplace

What is verbal harassment at work?

Your workplace can be a place where you feel accomplished and proud of your achievements.

However, the workplace is also fertile ground for acts of harassment of all sorts, such as physical harassment, sexual harassment, verbal harassment, or other types of illegal practices.

To be verbally harassed at work is to be spoken to in ways that make you uncomfortable to a point where you suffer, feel attached, diminished, humiliated, intimidated, or otherwise impaired to do your work.

Here are some common forms of workplace verbal harassment:

  • Inappropriate jokes
  • Inappropriate questions
  • Revealing information about your history in mocking ways
  • Spreading lies about you
  • A person constantly gossiping about you
  • A person making inappropriate sounds 
  • Verbal attacks 
  • Verbal threats 
  • Speaking in an aggressive tone
  • Demanding something in a humiliating manner
  • Embarrassing someone in front of others 
  • Shouting a person’s name to mock them

In most states and jurisdictions, there are many laws that protect employees from harassment at work.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all “unwanted” or “undesirable” communications may lead to the violation of a verbal harassment law or similar statute.

If you have been the victim of verbal harassment, you should speak to a labor lawyer to understand your rights and recourses.

Filing A Claim

If an employee feels harassed by another person in a repeated and continuous manner, he or she can file a claim.

However, proving verbal harassment will not be easy.

It’s generally harder to prove precisely what is “abusive” language and when language meets the threshold where it because offensive, abusive, or harassing.

Quite often, verbal harassment is used to prove a pattern of conduct in the context of another criminal conduct or violation of the law.

Legal Remedy

If a person is harmed by the harassing conduct of another, you may recover damages as a legal remedy.

Although you may have the right to ask for damages, proving damages may be more difficult in the eyes of the law.

To obtain damages, you must be able to quantify how much the verbal harassment has caused you financial damages or emotional suffering.

In the workplace, another challenge is that an at-will employee filing complaints for verbal harassment may be seen as someone who does not accept fair (or sometimes tough) criticism. 

In essence, for genuine verbal harassment wrongdoing, the victim can claim damages or press charges.

Proving Verbal Harassment

Proving verbal harassment may be challenging particularly if the harassment took place (or takes place) privately between the perpetrator and the victim.

Although the law allows you to present verbal evidence of an act or event, however verbal evidence is not as strong as written evidence, audio recordings, or other forms of documented evidence.

For this reason, verbal harassment lawsuits and claims are inherently more difficult to prove if the words or unlawful language were not recorded or witnessed by others.

Criminal Matter

If a person is to be pursued criminally for verbal harassment, the prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the act and had the intention of harassing his or her victim.

On both levels, the evidence for a verbal harassment crime can be challenging.

The same words uttered to two different people may or may not lead to the receiving party feeling harassed.

The consequences of verbal harassment are quite personal in nature and so the prosecutor must prove that the victim in question felt harassed and the offender knew that his or her words were causing the victim to feel harassed.

If you are the victim of criminal verbal harassment, you may want to speak to a defense attorney to get legal advice on what you can do or contact your local police authorities to report the incident.

Civil Matter

However, if verbal harassment is to be proven in the context of a civil matter or claim for damages, it may be easier for the plaintiff to prove verbal harassment as the evidence bar is not as high as in criminal courts.

In a civil court, the plaintiff will generally have to prove, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant verbalized harassment or acted in a way that caused the plaintiff to feel harassed.

Where it may get difficult for the plaintiff is to prove the damages resulting from the verbal harassment complaint.

If the harassment was recorded on a call or a witness was present to testify as to the nature of the harassment committed verbally, it will surely help prove the case.

If you have been the victim of verbal harassment, it’s important to consult with a personal injury lawyer to understand the recourse you may have from a civil law perspective to get damages.

Verbal Harassment Examples

What are some examples of verbal harassment to better understand the notion?

Verbal harassment is a type of language used by a person that psychologically harms another.

Depending on the jurisdiction you live in, the exact form of language that may result in verbal harassment may be defined under law, case law, or jurisprudence.

Considering that we come into communication with so many people and in so many ways, it’s generally not possible to exhaustively list all types of communications that may lead to “verbal harassment”.

However, to help you better define verbal harassment, here are some examples of instances when a person may feel verbally harassed:

  • A supervisor humiliates an employee in front of others
  • A colleague at work speaks to another in an aggressive tone and disrespectful manner
  • A former lover utters repeated insults 
  • A former friend makes racially unacceptable statements 

What’s important is that if a person is saying things that hurt you or cause you to feel diminished, humiliated, mocked, or feel emotionally harassed, it’s important to speak up and tell the aggressor that such language is unacceptable to you.

It does happen that in certain situations that a person may say things not knowing (in good faith) that the statements are leading another person to feel verbally harassed.

Verbal Harassment Meaning Takeaways 

So there you have it folks!

What is verbal harassment in the workplace? 

Is verbal harassment illegal?

Verbal harassment, in many jurisdictions, refers to a type of communication that causes or can cause another person to feel harassed, emotionally injured, or psychologically hurt.

It’s quite common to see the laws regulate verbal harassment particularly in the workplace where the same individuals are required or need to communicate with one another on an ongoing basis given more opportunities for acts of verbal harassment to take place.

Verbal harassment can happen either in a public setting or in private.

When verbal harassment is combined with threats, discriminatory acts, or sexual statements, you may have a more serious violation of the law and possibly stricter penalties and punishment.

Not all verbal statements can be considered as verbal harassment, however.

For example, if a boss criticizes his or her employee’s work based on justified grounds, that does not make the person a harasser.

However, if the boss specifically picks on an employee in a targetted and specific fashion by making belittling comments or humiliating the person, that’s an example of verbal harassment in the workplace.

Overall, if you think that someone is speaking to you in a totally inappropriate manner, causing you to feel hurt or ashamed, you should voice your concern and let the person know that you cannot accept communication of that kind.

If the conduct persists, you must speak to a qualified attorney, your boss, your human resource department, or even the police if it’s very serious.

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Definition Verbal Harassment

  • Verbal harassment is considered any statement made consciously and repeatedly in an attempt to humiliate, demean, criticize, or emotionally destroy another person
  • There are different forms of harassment verbal in nature such as yelling, using threatening language, insulting, mocking, spreading rumors, embarrassing, bullying, or using offensive language 
  • Depending on the applicable laws, verbal harassment may lead to criminal accusations or the perpetration held liable to compensate for damages in a civil court 
  • A verbal harassment claim can be difficult to prove as the actual works or verbal statements have to be proven to be made and that the offender was aware or conscious that the statements are causing the victim to feel harassed 
Age discrimination 
Class action lawsuit 
Compensatory damages 
Criminal lawyer 
Disability discrimination
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 
Felonious assault 
General damages 
Labor lawyer 
Pain and suffering damages 
Personal injury lawyer 
Physical harassment 
Sexual abuse
Sexual assault
Sexual battery 
Sexual harassment
Sexual violence 
Types of probation 
Unjust termination 
Workers’ compensation 
Workplace harassment 
Wrongful termination
Author
Beyond reasonable doubt 
Comparative negligence
Contributory negligence 
Criminal lawyer 
Criminal malpractice 
Culpable negligence 
Depraved indifference 
Felony vs misdemeanor 
Gross negligence 
Indictable offense 
Mala prohibita 
Malice aforethought 
Negligence definition
Preponderance of evidence
Pure comparative negligence 
Reasonable person standard
Strict liability
Summary offense
Author

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!

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