APWU: Stopping Workplace Harassment

By Research & Education Director Joyce Robinson

Employees have the right to work in an environment free of harassment or intimidation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”


What Kind of Behavior Constitutes Harassment?

According to the EEOC, annoying comments and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) are not the kind of harassment that is actionable in court unless the conduct creates a work environment that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people. Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to:

  • Making offensive or derogatory comments, nicknames, or racial slurs.
  • Engaging in physically threatening, intimidating, or humiliating actions.
  • Circulating or showing written or graphic material that belittles or shows hostility towards an individual or group.
  • Using racially derogatory words, phrases, or nicknames.
  • Expressing derogatory comments relating to and arising out of a person’s military service.
  • Displaying posters or symbols offensive to individuals of a certain race, sex, national origin, religion, etc.
  • Making derogatory references to an employee’s physical or mental impairment.

What to Do if You Are Harassed?

Any level of serious harassment has no place at work. If you are offended by someone’s conduct:

  • Try to tell the harasser that his/her behavior is unwelcome.
  • Talk to your shop steward or a local union officer.
  • Report the incident to a supervisor, manager, or postmaster.
  • Keep a diary at home of incidents, dates, times, places, behavior, what was said, and of all witnesses.
  • File a grievance and an EEO Complaint. If a supervisor, manager or postmaster is doing the harassing, insist that the “proposed solution” does not adversely affect you. Insist the harasser be the one who is inconvenienced or moved.

How Can Co-Workers Help?

Co-workers can help stop harassment in the workplace by taking it seriously. Do not laugh or condone teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions that may be hurtful or inappropriate. Ask the harasser to stop, even if the behavior is not directed at you. Report the harassment to the union steward, a supervisor, manager, and/or a postmaster.

If you don’t feel like you can speak up for yourself or others, tell a union steward or officer who will speak up for you. And if you feel that you are retaliated against for speaking up or making a report, that is a form of harassment and should be reported, too.

What Kind of Legal Action Can I Take?

If harassment and/or retaliation is happening in your workplace and you’ve raised it to management but it doesn’t stop, you can file a grievance against management to document that the Postal Service knew about the harassment and was given an opportunity to stop it. In addition, file an EEO complaint within 45 days of the incident by calling 1-888-336-8777. You must file a timely EEO complaint to bring a lawsuit over harassment.

If the alleged harasser’s behavior included assault and battery or rape, file criminal charges with the police and consult an attorney. Also, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to give employees emotional support for problems that may result from being harassed. Contact the EAP at 1-800-327-4968.

References: EEOC (Harassment) and USPS Policy on Workplace Harassment

(This article first appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

9 thoughts on “APWU: Stopping Workplace Harassment

  1. the only way to stop the harassment is when the Postal service is humiliated. Two years ago a clerk was injured in Oakland, Ca. took postal management twenty minutes to call ems! The clerk died and the Department of Labor turned the death benefit payment. The reason was “how do we know the clerk wasn’t taking a nap. The Department of labor turned down the appeal. As soon as a television station in Oakland broadcasted the story, the Department of Labor couldn’t pay fast enough. In Cleveland a drug sting took down nineteen Postal employees. The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran the story on how the Inspectors received as it was called dollars for collars. ABC news did a nice story about the sham. Turns out the postal service ran the scam all over the country. Even had hearings in the US house of Representatives. The Postal Service was made to look like fools. Only when a business, government agency, church, or any organization is embarrassed will the bastards change! That is the only thing they understand.

  2. Amazingly,this wording sounds to more like statements,that would have expected;when I first began my POSTAL-occupation,in 1984. It’s little more than a statement of human civility. Whatever,happened to”sexual harassment”? I do know,that once postal facilities,are down-sized;or merely threatened with down-sizings and/ or closures-no gives a sh.t about harassment!! Sexual harassment,or other types? You merely look to save your own rear-end,or if you lucky enough,jump ship from a slowly sinking USPS Titanic( mail-processing plant) ;as I luckily did-as of August 2015.

  3. same with me…..just I have a thick skin and formal education and just laughed in their face and screwed them every chance I got. one time a stupidvisor left his brand new walkie-talkie in my truck and forgot which one…..guess its still on the road when it grew wings and flew out the window lol……..or when another stupidvisor got crazy glue stuck in his office door lock and they had to call a locksmith @ 125 dollars an hour. oy veh! retired now and just laugh at how low life these people were, lower than pond scum. for every time they screwed me I got em back 100 times. last 5 years were ROTC (retired on the clock) what me work….er worry lol. unions were a bigger joke as well.

  4. I agree the harassment by supervisors at the PO is beyond repair. There are procedures in place to supposedly stop this, and it looks really good on paper. Some make it through with true grit and what fight they have left in them after the exhausting toxic environment they are expected to endure, has allowed them some fight left for resolution. Self esteem and dignity are far removed prior to the finish line. Depression is a given. Distrust grows like weeds, alienation is a promise. I have never in my life heard of, nor lived through such torment and unjust until the job at the PO. If your not a butt kisser, there is no place for you. Dont anticipate to be the independent, self sufficient, individual you strived to be your entire life, check that at the door. Put your tail between your legs, hold your head down, dont look up, dont ask questions and follow the leader. That was the atmosphere I was expected to thrive in. Because, if your “sheeple” your supervisor has less of a person to contend with, and they are honestly to busily engaged in shop talk and sports trivia to deal with your opinions or your suggestions. So I left. Thanks to the USPS, I made a good living for my family and me, to that I am appreciative. But because of the lack of leadership, despite having all the proper manuals in place for instruction, all the job protections for those who had any breath left to fight for them. I chose to have my life back. Away from the toxic, dysfunctional, distrust, gossiping, mentally draining, combative atmosphere. Less money, but much happier. A word to the local unions, not all, but most; Get a clue, quit stealing from members, fight for them, not just your cushy little position made comfortable by management to ease their duties and yours, but stretch that back bone. If you cant or wont, get your arse out of that seat, you dont deserve it, your humiliating the entire membership and shaming the national.

  5. And where is the NALC on this? Silent as usual. The unions need to present a united determined front, get Congress and the Senate involved, the public and media to make people more aware of the rampant abuse of employees by some managers and supervisors who are practically sadistic in their maltreatment of their craft. And while I’ve been out a while now, I never saw it to fail where harassing a couple of favorite targets occurred, there was blatant favoritism and turning a blind eye as far as some workers were concerned, usually the ass kissers and snitches who wanted to get into management someday themselves.
    Selective enforcement of rules and expectations is also harassment and discriminatory. We all know of offices where some clerks and carriers can’t breathe without some asshole supervisor or manager waiting to pounce on them, knowing there will be little if any resistance from the person they’re abusing. Meanwhile others are getting away with unbelievable behavior and answer to no one.
    The unions are at fault here. Not just nationally but locally. My union, the NALC, has the tools to fight abuse in the workplace, but far too many officers in their individual branches are corrupted, lazy and have no business “representing” anybody. I’ve known of NALC officers who are snitches, buddy buddy with management, deliberately refuse to represent carriers they don’t like or throw the cases with shoddy grievance work. And, I’m sorry to say, that kind of treachery doesn’t stop at the local branch. No names here, but at national conventions during the years I was active, I always came away with horror stories about terrible behavior by certain people, some who thought nothing of instructing DRT members to sabotage grievances from offices where offices were at loggerheads with NBA’s, RAA’s, or DRT members. It was on a national scale, and carefully hidden behind the usual bullshit “Brother and Sister” talk. People are people, and no organization is free of reprehensible behavior.
    So those in offices who know their officers are corrupted have a responsibility to vote those jerks out of office. To have the tools to fight back and then refuse to use them means nothing will change. To allow crooked dishonest officers to remain in office regardless of level is irresponsible. These people are paid to represent NALC members, not sell them out. It’s the ugly truth – abuse happens because people allow it to.

    • Ms. Wong – You seem very upset with your level of representation. However, you, yourself stated that the NLRB also told you that the USPS was not in violation of the contract. So, it would appear that your director of clerks was correct.

      The sad truth is supervisors do not have to be nice to you. They don’t have to say please, or thank you. They have to follow the contract. But they’re allowed to be jerks.

  6. what? after 32 years? A-PEE-U feeling the heat of their dues collection agency. company union 100% in the tank with the po mismanaging criminals! Mr a=pee-u shop stupid “they are harassing me”…..shop stupid…”they can do that”! in my case they skip over me for overtime as a reprisal, union director of clerks sits in union office 40 hours a week playing on computer as a mismanagement payoff to look the other way…..when you tell her to file a grievance she says “they can do that”! called local NLRB office and they said THEY CAN NOT DO THAT! well my anniversary date is in May and I can do that too…drop my dues collection withdrawal on my pay check from this a@@hole non-union.

  7. When i retired there were 26,000 EEO complaints.That was in 2001. I never knew the meaning of the word harassment until i entered the postal service.In my humble opinion, the main reason for this behavior is the incompetent selection of supervisors,in a good old boy promotion system.I experienced a girl being promoted because of the sexual favors she gave the one of the Tour Supt..After she was promoted they didn’t know what to do with her,bouncing from one station to the next.Nothing but incompetent hacks ,sadly.

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