6 Things That Are Illegal for Your Co-Workers To Do

You don’t need to tolerate bad behavior if a colleague breaks these rules.

boss screaming at employee in office
Updated May 28, 2024
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Certain workplace behaviors are not just inappropriate, they're illegal. And it's not just the higher-ups that can violate rules. Co-workers can too.

Understanding your rights and recognizing when they've been violated is essential to maintaining a safe and respectful work environment.

Even if your job pays enough to help you move beyond living paycheck to paycheck, it’s not worth remaining with an employer that tolerates violations.

Here are six things that are illegal for your co-workers to do, no matter the circumstances.

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Physically intimidate you

YURII MASLAK/Adobe female boss scolding young female employee sitting at table in front of laptop in office

Physical intimidation in the workplace is never acceptable and is considered a form of workplace harassment.

This includes threatening gestures, aggressive body language, or any behavior that makes you feel physically threatened or unsafe.

Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected in the workplace. If you experience physical intimidation from a co-worker, report it to your supervisor or human resources immediately.

Sexually harass you

New Africa/Adobe african american female worker getting yelled by male boss at work

Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited by law. This type of behavior can take many forms, including unwanted advances, inappropriate comments, or any behavior of a sexual nature that creates a hostile work environment.

Document instances of sexual harassment and report them to human resources or your company's designated authority for investigation and resolution. Speaking up against sexual harassment not only protects you but also contributes to a safe workplace for everyone.

Steal things from your desk

A. Frank/peopleimages.com/Adobe Stressed woman at work

Taking items from a colleague's desk without permission is a violation of their personal space and property rights.

Whether it's office supplies, personal belongings, or anything else, stealing from a co-worker is illegal and can result in disciplinary action or legal consequences.

Respect for personal boundaries and property is fundamental in an environment where trust and professionalism are paramount.

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Take pictures of you

Andrey Popov/Adobe private detective taking photos

Photographing or recording someone in the workplace without their consent is a breach of their privacy rights and may also constitute harassment or surveillance.

If you become aware that a co-worker is taking pictures of you without permission, address the issue with them directly or report it to human resources.

Your right to privacy should be respected at all times, and unauthorized photography or recording undermines that basic right.

Steal your paycheck

Impact Photography/Adobe embezzlement

Tampering with or stealing someone's paycheck is not only unethical but also illegal. The law protects your paycheck, and any interference with its delivery or distribution can result in serious consequences for the perpetrator.

If you suspect your paycheck has been stolen or mishandled, report it to your employer or payroll department immediately.

Share your private information

Smallroombigdream/Adobe system warning hacked alert

Your private information — such as your Social Security number, bank account number, or other sensitive data — should be kept confidential in the workplace.

Sharing this information without your consent is a violation of privacy laws and can lead to identity theft or financial harm.

If you discover that a co-worker has shared your private information, take immediate action to address the breach and protect your personal data.

Bottom line

Beaunitta Van Wyk/peopleimages.com/Adobe multitasking businesswoman with headache from workload

We all want a job that helps us get ahead financially. But it’s also crucial to work for a company that respects rights and boundaries and ensures a safe and respectful environment for all employees.

By recognizing these six things that are illegal for your co-workers to do, you can protect yourself from harassment, theft, and other forms of misconduct.

Speaking up and taking action against illegal behavior is essential for fostering a culture of accountability and mutual respect in the workplace.

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Author Details

Adam Palasciano

Adam Palasciano is a personal finance-obsessed and money-savvy individual who loves to hash out content on all things saving money. He specializes in writing millennial-friendly personal finance content, covering topics ranging from trending financial news, debt, credit cards, cryptocurrency, and more.