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How to Recognize and Combat Victimization in the Workplace

How to Recognize and Combat Victimization in the Workplace

In any workplace, there is always the potential for victimization. Unfortunately, many employees don't even realize they are being victimized until it's too late. Managers need to be aware of the signs so that they can protect their employees and create a safe work environment. This article will provide tips on how to recognize and combat victimization in the workplace.

What Are the Forms of Workplace Discrimination?

The most common forms of discrimination are as follows:

  • Direct discrimination. It occurs when a person is treated differently than others because of certain protected characteristics, such as age, gender, religion, etc.
  • Indirect discrimination. It occurs when a practice, policy, or rule seems neutral but has a disproportionately negative impact on a particular group.
  • Harassment. It can include any type of unwelcome or hostile behavior and can take many forms, from bullying to sexual harassment.
  • Victimization. It occurs when an individual is treated unfairly or harassed because they have made a complaint or raised concerns about equal employment opportunities in their workplace.
  • Intentional discrimination. It is a conscious and deliberate treatment of people differently based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, or disability in the workplace.
  • Unintentional discrimination. It can occur when employers or employees inadvertently create policies or a working environment that is unfavorable to members of a protected group.
  • Systematic discrimination. It refers to parts of organizational structure, such as behavior patterns, policies, and practices that create and perpetuate disadvantages for members based on their gender, race, religious practices, and so on.
  • Reverse discrimination. It occurs when members of a protected class are given preferential treatment in order to remedy past discrimination.

Visit our blog post to learn more about Forms of Discrimination in the Workplace.

What Is Victimization in the Workplace?

Victimization at work refers to being treated unfairly due to making or supporting a complaint related to a protected characteristic in the workplace. Legally, a protected characteristic is a person's age, gender, gender identity, marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy, maternity, race, religion or disability.

In order to constitute victimization, the unfair treatment must be related to the original complaint and must have a detrimental effect on the individual.

Examples of Workplace Victimization

Victimization at work can be illustrated through a couple of examples.

For instance, a member of staff makes a complaint to an organization's HR department about sexual harassment by his/her employer. Such a claim is also called a protected act. As a result, the employer who harassed the employee no longer invites the employee to team meetings. In this case, the behavior is classed as unlawful victimization,

It could also happen that the employees provide information about discrimination against other workers. For example, a colleague made a claim against a manager accusing him of bullying and another worker gave evidence at the Employee Tribunal supporting his claim as a witness. As a result, the employer threatens the witness for having done a protected act and creates work conditions where he is treated badly.

Signs of Victimization at Work

There are a number of signs that may indicate that an individual is being victimized at work. Here are some of them:

  • Feeling isolated or excluded from work-related activities
  • Being subject to unreasonable or excessive workloads
  • Receiving disparate treatment from others at work
  • Experiencing changes in job duties or responsibilities
  • Being subjected to demeaning or offensive language
  • What Are the Effects of Victimization on Employees?

Victimization at work can have a number of negative effects on employees. Here are some of them:

  • A feeling of isolation and anxiety. Victims may feel as though they are being singled out, and this can make it difficult for them to focus on their work.
  • Lost trust in their co-workers and their employer. This can lead to decreased productivity, as well as increased absenteeism.
  • Negative impact on an employee's health. Being treated poorly can be an occupational health hazard. It can be a cause of stress-related illnesses, such as headaches, ulcers, and insomnia. In severe cases, victimization can even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

How to Prevent Victimization from Happening in Your Workplace

As more and more companies adopt zero-tolerance policies toward unlawful discrimination, it's important to be aware of the steps that can be taken to prevent victimization from happening in your workplace. Here are some ways organizations can do this:

  • Providing clear policies and procedures. These can address acceptable behavior at work and will help to create a culture of respect and discourage predatory behavior.
  • Conducting regular training. It should involve explaining victimization and other forms of discrimination. This will help employees to identify potential red flags and know how to report problematic behavior.
  • Encouraging open communication. This will create an environment where workers feel comfortable coming forward with concerns.
  • Taking legal action when necessary. To reduce work victimization cases, institutions should be on the side of a staff member who is being discriminated against. It could mean helping him/her file complaints, providing support to the employee in Employee Tribunal, and reporting colleagues that could be victimizing workers.

How to Protect Yourself from Workplace Victimization

You are protected against victimization if you make a claim of discrimination because of protected characteristics under the Equality Act. In addition, you are protected if you give evidence to help someone who made a complaint under this Act. Finally, you are protected by law if you report someone who did something unlawful under the Act. These actions are called protected acts.

Though it is often difficult to speak up, it is important to remember that you have rights and there are ways to protect yourself and do a protected act. If you feel that you are being victimized at work, there are some things you can do:

  • Deal with the problem internally. Approach the person who is victimizing you.
  • Speak to your supervisor or the HR department. It is also important to keep a record of any incidents, including dates, times, and witnesses. This will help to create a paper trail in the event that you need to take further action.
  • Raise a formal complaint. For instance, if employees feel that they have been dismissed as a part of victimization, they have the right to make unfair dismissal claims.
  • Contact Acas or EEOC for further advice. In the UK, you may be advised to contact Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and make an Employment Tribunal claim. If you win the claim by participating in an Employment Tribunal hearing, you can be awarded compensation for the upset and financial losses you experienced. In the US, you can file a complaint with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Behaviour Is an Example of Victimization?

There are many behaviors that can be considered victimization. Here are some of them:

  • Being repeatedly bullied or harassed by another person
  • Being made to feel isolated or excluded from a group
  • Being passed over for a promotion or job opportunity because of opposing discrimination based on their spiritual belief, sex, sexual orientation, or race.
  • Being repeatedly given unfair or unreasonable work assignments.

Ultimately, any behavior that makes someone feel targeted, powerless, or vulnerable can be classed as victimization.

Is Victimization a Form of Harassment?

Harassment is an act of threatening, intimidating, or causing fear in others while victimization is a situation where someone receives less favorable treatment because they supported someone who was being harassed or because they complained about unfair treatment.

Victimization happens due to standing up to harassment, but it can constitute harassment as well, as victimizing often includes tactics of bullying, exclusion, or making someone's work conditions unfair.

Is Victimization a Form of Discrimination?

Discrimination refers to the differential treatment of individuals or groups on the basis of their membership in a particular category. Categories can be based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability, among others.

Victimization occurs when an individual opposes discrimination or supports someone's discrimination claim, therefore they are closely linked. Under the UK's Equality Act 2010, victimization is a form of unlawful discrimination.

What Is Classed as Victimization?

Victimization is when someone is treated unfairly because they have made a complaint of discrimination. It can also be when someone is treated badly because they are supporting someone who has made a complaint of discrimination. So, victimization is a form of discrimination in itself.

For example, if, after an employee made a complaint of sexual harassment, she was excluded from an important meeting that she would otherwise have attended. The employee has been treated badly because of her complaint, so this would be classed as victimization.

Can You Sue a Company for Victimisation?

If you are experiencing victimization, you should always try to deal with the issue internally first. Talk to your supervisor or the HR department. If it doesn't solve the issue, try filing a formal complaint at your organization. Taking legal action should be your last resort, however, if necessary, there are ways to approach this.

If you are being victimized in the UK, victimization is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. You can take action by telling Acas first, and then making a claim to an employment tribunal. Alternatively, you can consult a trustworthy Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) regulated solicitor for advice.

In the US, state and federal law protects sufferers of victimization at work. You may file a complaint of victimization with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a similar state agency.


If you think that someone you work with might be suffering victimization at work, there are several things you can do to support them. Listen without judgment, provide emotional support, and connect them with resources if necessary. Remember that victims of workplace victimization often feel ashamed or embarrassed, so try not to make them feel worse by judging them or their situation. The best way to prevent victimization at work is through education and awareness.

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