Workplace harassment is often a misunderstood legal concept. Some people think making the occasionally “dirty” joke at the office automatically constitutes a civil rights violation. But the law in this area is somewhat more complex. Harassment certainly can include inappropriate jokes and derogatory comments, but it also encompasses a wider range of “unwelcome conduct” that has the effect of discriminating against an employee on the basis of one or more protected characteristics.
The attorneys at Minnis & Smallets, LLP, assist clients in dealing with cases of workplace harassment. Any harassment allegation must be taken seriously and not simply brushed off as an “isolated incident” or “no big deal.” Yet in many cases, Oakland-area employers and employees alike are simply unsure of what anti-harassment laws actually cover or what steps to take when an allegation has been made. Our experienced Oakland harassment attorneys can review your case and advise you on the proper course of action.
What distinguishes a petty slight or annoying behavior from harassment is the fact that it targets an employee on the basis of a certain characteristic. Under federal law, harassment is discrimination when it targets an employee on the basis of sex, pregnancy, race, national origin, religion, age (for workers who are ages 40 or older), disability, or genetic information. California law goes even further and protects employees from harassment on the basis of ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and marital status.
Harassment generally falls into one of two categories:
Workplace harassment takes many forms, however, and not all of them are verbal. There are cases in California in which someone displaying objects that contain sexist or racist messages will qualify as harassment. Harassment is not necessarily limited to supervisors and co-workers. Employers may also be held liable if they fail to protect employees from harassment committed by customers, independent contractors, and outside vendors of the business.
Harassment harms both employer and employees. For the worker, harassment can take a substantial financial and psychological toll, especially if it prevents them from advancing in their careers. For employers, harassment can lead to a significant decrease in morale and overall productivity.
This is why it is so important to identify and put a stop to harassment whenever it occurs. If you need assistance in addressing workplace harassment, call Minnis & Smallets, LLP, today at 1-415-551-0885 or contact us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation.