Unprofessional behavior may not be illegal behavior. It’s important to act professionally when possible, but everyone makes mistakes. An ill-advised joke. A slip of the tongue. Occasional mistakes do not necessarily create a hostile workplace and can be remedied with retraining, mediation, or other action that’s consistent with your company’s policies.
Consequences will depend on the severity of harassment or discrimination and should be applied equally across all employees in accordance with your written policies.
Special Considerations for Supervisors
When there’s an inequality between seniority, issues of discrimination and harassment become much more serious. A supervisor’s comments and behavior toward a subordinate can weigh more heavily than comments between equally senior employees. This is because supervisors have a degree of power over their subordinates.
Employees may feel compelled not to complain because they don’t want to jeopardize their chances at promotion or risk their jobs for bringing accusations against their boss. They may fear retaliation: that they’ll get less favorable hours, or the desk away from the window, or a transfer to a less desirable location, if they complain.