Swansea University

2. Definition and Examples of Harassment

The standard definition for harassment is unwanted conduct on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation etc. which has the purpose or effect of either violating the claimant's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

The following are some examples of specific types of harassment, but it should be noted that this policy applies to all forms of harassment.

2.1

Bullying

Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.  Examples of bullying could be:

  • abuse of power or authority
  • verbal, written and/or physical intimidation e.g. threats, derisory remarks
  • persistent unjustified criticism
  • public humiliation
  • the setting of impossible deadlines or intolerable workload burdens
  • having responsibilities or decision-making powers withdrawn without good reason or explanation
  • unwarranted exclusions

Vigorous speech and comment, academic debate and legitimate management of the performance of staff or students can be distinguished from bullying behaviour.  However care should be taken to ensure that neither staff nor students are made to feel intimidated. 

2.2

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment may be homosexual or heterosexual. It may be defined as any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment. It may include:

  • physical contact
  • invasion of personal space
  • suggestive remarks or sounds
  • unwanted comments on dress and appearance
  • jokes of a sexual nature
  • display of sexually offensive material
  • inappropriate downloading of pornographic or sexually exploitive and degrading material by computer
  • verbal threats

It is important to remember that sexual harassment can occur of women by men, men by women, and also between members of the same sex. It can also refer to unwanted conduct that is related to the sex of the other person.

2.3

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment is any behaviour, deliberate or otherwise pertaining to race, colour, nationality - including citizenship, or ethnic or national origins, which is directed at an individual or group and which is found to be offensive or objectionable to recipients and which creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Such behaviour may include:

  • derogatory name calling
  • insults and racist jokes
  • display of racially offensive material and abusive language
  • exclusion from normal workplace conversation or activities
  • unfair allocation of work
  • verbal threats
  • physical attack
  • incitement of others to commit any such acts

2.4

Harassment on Grounds of Sexual Orientation

This act of harassment is any behaviour deliberate or otherwise, pertaining to sexual orientation. Homophobia is a term used to describe hatred and rejection of gays, lesbians and homosexuality. It may be directed against individuals or groups of people who are, or are thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered and is behaviour which can be defined as unwanted conduct violating a person’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Examples may include:

  • offensive jokes
  • ridicule
  • verbal threats
  • derogatory comments
  • intrusive questioning about a person's domestic circumstances
  • innuendo
  • gossip
  • physical attack
  • unfair allocation of work
  • exclusion from normal work place / class conversation or activities
  • incitement of others to commit any such acts

2.5

Harassment on Grounds of Religion

Religious Harassment is any behaviour deliberate or otherwise, pertaining to religion, religious belief or other similar philosophical belief and it is behaviour which can be defined as unwanted conduct violating a person's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.  Examples can include:

  • offensive jokes
  • ridicule
  • display of offensive material

2.6

Political Harassment, or Harassment on the Grounds of Trade Union Membership

Political harassment, or harassment on the grounds of trade union membership can include:

  • offensive jokes
  • ridicule
  • display of offensive material

2.7

Harassment on the Grounds of Disability

Harassment may be based on the fact that a person has a physical or mental impairment, learning difficulty or disfigurement. This can include:

  • offensive or patronising language
  • offensive or patronising action or behaviour
  • jokes or inappropriate comments
  • questions which cause offence to the individual or group of individuals concerned
  • display of offensive material

2.8

Harassment on the Grounds of Age

Ageism can affect anybody regardless of how old they are. Harassment on the grounds of age may include:

  • assumptions regarding the individual's inability to learn
  • offensive remarks
  • exclusion on the basis of age

2.9

Harassment on the Grounds of Gender Re-assignment

Harassment on the grounds of gender re-assignment is prohibited by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 as amended. Examples include: 

  • suggestive remarks or sounds
  • unwanted comments on dress and appearance
  • verbal threats

2.10

Harassment via the Medium of Email

The University Computing Regulations state that “…the University staff and student e-mail lists are intended for University topics only. All messages sent to the list should show tolerance and respect to all potential recipients. It should be noted that offensive remarks and material could constitute harassment. Information on e-mail etiquette can be found in Appendix III.