Is Being Singled Out at Work Harassment?

By Douglas Lipsky

Being singled out at work is uncomfortable, but it can also be the precursor to harassment. This subtle distinction matters because the line between personal bias and harassment often blurs. When preferential treatment turns into targeted negativity, impacting your work environment and mental health, it’s time to take action. 

An employment lawyer becomes your ally, offering clarity on your experiences against the backdrop of legal standards for harassment. Armed with knowledge, they can guide you through documenting incidents and crafting a response strategy, ensuring your rights are protected. If you’re navigating these murky waters, seeking legal advice can be crucial in turning the tide in your favor.

What it’s Like Being Singled Out at Work

Being singled out in the workplace can occur in various ways, from consistently being assigned more work than your colleagues to exclusion from meetings or team activities. 

Sometimes, it might appear benign, like being the go-to person for specific tasks because of your expertise. 

However, when it leads to unfair treatment, increased stress, or negatively impacts your career growth, it becomes a concern. This distinction is crucial in understanding the fine line between being valued for unique skills and being unfairly targeted or isolated.

The context in which you’re singled out plays a significant role in determining its nature. Positive attention to accomplishments vastly differs from being isolated due to personal characteristics or perceived differences. When the latter occurs, it can pave the way for a hostile work environment, affecting not only your professional life but also your personal well-being. 

When Being Singled Out Crosses Into Harassment

When being singled out at work shifts from isolated incidents to a pattern of adverse treatment, it crosses into the realm of harassment. This transition is marked by several key indicators that transform personal grievances into legal concerns. 

Examples that illustrate when being singled out becomes harassment include:

  • Persistent Negative Comments: Regular derogatory remarks about your work, appearance, or background that demean or belittle you.
  • Exclusion from Opportunities: Systematically being overlooked for training, promotions, or key projects without justifiable reason, based on prejudice.
  • Intimidation or Threats: Facing threats to your job security or personal safety for unjust reasons that create a climate of fear.
  • Unwarranted Discipline: Receiving disproportionate disciplinary actions or criticisms not applied to others in similar situations.

Such conduct, mainly when repetitive and severe, contributes to a hostile work environment, making it clear that being singled out has escalated into harassment. Recognizing these signs is crucial. It enables victims to understand their experiences within the harassment framework, prompting timely action to protect their rights and well-being. 

Protecting Yourself From Being Singled Out and Harassed

Protecting yourself from harassment from being singled out requires a proactive approach. Take the following steps to protect your rights and well-being in the workplace:

  • Document Everything: Keep a detailed record of incidents, including dates, times, witnesses, and the nature of your treatment. Documentation is critical in establishing a pattern of behavior.
  • Report to HR: Inform your HR department about the harassment, providing them with your documentation. Follow your company’s reporting procedures to ensure your complaint is officially recorded.
  • Seek Support: Don’t isolate yourself; talk to trusted colleagues, mentors, or a support group who can provide advice and emotional backing.

Lastly, seek legal advice if the situation doesn’t improve or if you face retaliation. An employment lawyer can guide you through your options and help protect your interests.

Remember, you have the right to a safe and fair working environment.

How Lipsky Lowe Can Help 

At Lipsky Lowe, we’re dedicated to advocating for your rights in the workplace. Our experienced employment lawyers specialize in handling cases of harassment and discrimination, including situations where individuals are singled out unfairly. If you’re experiencing mistreatment at work, don’t hesitate to contact us for legal guidance and support. Together, we’ll work to protect your rights and ensure a safe and respectful workplace environment.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.