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San Francisco Harassment Lawyers

The harassment lawyers at Minnis & Smallets help employees who have been subjected to harassment.

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:

  • Using derogatory language with and around an employee;             
  • Subjecting an employee to offensive images and text;                          
  • Making unwanted physical contact with an employee; and                              
  • Interfering with an employee’s work.

Sexual Harassment versus Other Types of Harassment

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 asquid pro quo” harassment. It can take the following forms:

  • Promising an employee favorable treatment, such as a raise, a promotion, or perks in the workplace in exchange for a sexual relationship;                       
  • Making a sexual relationship a requirement for promotion or hiring; and
  • Retaliating against an employee for refusing to engage in a sexual relationship with the harasser, which can be done by firing the employee or subjecting him or her to a hostile work environment.                         

Harassment Based on Race or National Origin

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:

  • Offensive jokes about the person’s race or national origin;
  • Racial or ethnic slurs;
  • Epithets or name-calling based on the person’s race or national origin;
  • Physical assaults or threats tied to race or national origin;
  • Ridiculing or mocking a person because of her race or national origin; 
  • Displaying images or offensive objects that are racist or suggest disdain for individuals of a specific national origin; and/or
  • Hostile or abusive social interactions and other behavior motivated by discriminatory animus.

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.

How Harassment Hurts Employees

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.

Work with an Experienced San Francisco Employment Lawyer

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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