Harassment in the workplace can take many forms. Basically, it is the act of creating a hostile work environment for an employee, based on that individual’s protected status. Harassment in the workplace is unlawful.
A few examples of workplace harassment include:
Unlawful harassment must be based on an employee’s protected status. For example, it is unlawful to harass an employee based on the employee’s race, gender, sexual orientation or another protected class. Harassment involves conduct that creates a hostile, offensive, oppressive, or intimidating work environment.
When harassment has a sexual component, it is referred to as “sexual harassment.” Although sexual harassment can mirror other types of harassment by creating a hostile work environment, it can also be used to extract sexual concessions from an employee. This form of sexual harassment is known as “quid pro quo” harassment. It can take the following forms:
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect employees from harassment based on race or national origin. As the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains, harassment based on a person’s race or national origin needs to be more than “petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents,” since these do not rise to the level of unlawful harassment. In order for the harassment to be unlawful, it “must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”
What are some instances of unlawful harassment based on an employee’s race or national origin? Examples might include the following:
Who can commit harassment on the basis of race or national origin? We often think of harassment as being perpetrated by a boss or co-worker. While both supervisors and co-workers can commit unlawful harassment, they are not the only ones. Non-employees, such as customers or vendors, can also commit harassment based on race or national origin that requires the employer to take corrective steps.
Harassment can be unlawful even when the person targeted is not of a particular race or national origin, but the harasser perceives the victim to be of a particular race or national origin and targets her on those grounds. In addition, the law protects not only the employee who is subjected to the harassing conduct, but also, “anyone affected by the offensive conduct,” according to the EEOC.
A hostile work environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment does not just hurt the target of the harassment. When this behavior exists in the workplace, it harms all employees by creating an atmosphere where harassment is tolerated, accepted, and even encouraged.
When an individual is harassed at work, he or she can suffer from worsened physical and mental health. This can cause him or her to take time off work, hurting his or her productivity. At work, an employee who is subjected to harassment is often less likely to contribute to projects and work effectively as part of a team.
The law protects employees who are subjected to harassment from retaliation if they decide to file a claim. Other co-workers who serve as witnesses in harassment cases, or who report instances of harassment against another employee are also protected against retaliation.
If you have faced harassment in your workplace, you can take action. Sometimes, this means working with an experienced employment lawyer to take legal action with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or to file a complaint in court. Contact our team at Minnis & Smallets LLP today to schedule your initial legal consultation with us, during which we can discuss your case in greater detail and guide you toward the most productive course of action for your case.
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