Intent vs. Impact in Cases of Workplace Harassment

This is a legal thing that means, in a nutshell, that the victim’s experience carries more weight than the intent of the harasser.

Good intentions don't make up for bad impact (diagram from
Good intentions don’t make up for bad impact (diagram from

So, for example, if Joe, who is a well-known office flirt, continues to make suggestive comments to Mary, even after Mary tells him to knock it off, it should be irrelevant that most women love Joe because he brings them cupcakes and tells them they look pretty.

The issue at hand needs to be the impact Joe’s behavior has had on Mary.

You see, people use tons of ways they justify their actions. The most dysfunctional systems of workplace behavior operate under the assumption that what they do is OK, and those within who have benefited because of those systems have a vested interest in maintaining them. So if one person speaks up to say there is a problem, but most everyone else goes along with the status quo, the perpetrator (and those around him) will invariably say, “the problem must not be with me, but with the one that misunderstood my intentions.”

Wrong answer.

Even if you think your intentions were good, if the impact of your actions are that your victim(s) are seeking medical or mental health treatment, are being denied raises and promotions, are being ostracized by peers, and end up leaving jobs they love, then the problem isn’t the victim, asshole. You’re the problem. And if the workplace protects you instead of dealing with your shit, then they become the problem too.


For the workplace that continues to ignore problems of workplace discrimination, bad things happen- like jail sentences, lawsuits, and ruined reputations that take years to rebuild.

You’d think that alone would be enough to encourage employers to take matters into hand. And yet, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that in 2014 over 88,000  charges of workplace discrimination were filed with that agency. The state of Florida had the astounding number of over 7500 charges filed in 2014; only Texas had a higher number of charges filed that year.

The EEOC has information and tools to help you decide how to handle workplace discrimination.
The EEOC has information and tools to help you handle workplace discrimination.

If you feel you may have been discriminated against in the workplace, the EEOC has an assessment tool that may help you determine if that is the case, and will guide you as to how you can file a complaint. You may be required to file a complaint with EEOC before filing a lawsuit.

And, as always, I strongly recommend you at least consult with an attorney.


FYI: EEOC posts stats about a number of things. For instance, in 2013, the median salary of male state/local government workers was $48, 821. The median salary for female state/local workers is $42,264.

In the state of Florida, the median salary for a male state employee in 2013 was $47,837 while for women it was only $43,325.

Pretty shitty, huh?



6 thoughts on “Intent vs. Impact in Cases of Workplace Harassment

  1. Oh Squeals!! I overheard mom/dad talking about this discrimination stuff this morning at the Hotel Thompson. Discrimination can happen comes in all types of forms. For instance, if one boss tells someone that does 90% of the work they have to stay in their office, do their work, they can’t talk to anyone or have anyone in their office while another person who does maybe 10% of the work has the opposite – they get to have daily ‘parties’ in their office laughing and cutting up all day with other staff… how is that right? Just saying of course hypothetically – snorts and oinks. XOXO – Bacon

    1. That sounds like there’s also bullying happening. A boss who feels inadequate singles out an otherwise competent employee to continually harass, and encourages others to join in. Heaven forbid an employee be more competent than the supervisor.

  2. Rumpy, you’ve hit a deep subject here. It’s very difficult to sustain a law suit or a complaint against someone who is either powerful or well liked by the bosses. A friend of mine tried it, and decided that retirement was a better solution for her emotionally because she didn’t need the emotional trauma and expense over time. She moved on, and seems happier for it. Some things are worth fighting for, but you have to choose your battles.

  3. Hmm, I have a very close family member who recently opened a law practice in NW Florida. I know bankruptcy is part of the speciality, but I’m thinking this is another area they would be more than happy to work in. I’m going to suggest it.

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