Workplace harassment is against the law and is a form of employment discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as unwelcome conduct based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
Harassment is against the law when the person subjected to the offensive conduct must endure it as a condition of continued employment and when it creates an intimidating, hostile or abusive work environment. Employers may also not harass individuals for filing a discrimination action or participating in an investigation.
Offensive conduct incudes name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule and insults.
Verbal harassment may include yelling or making inappropriate remarks, which can have a negative psychological impact on the victim. Psychological harassment may also include taking credit for another person’s work, creating deadlines or demands that are impossible for the employee to meet or requiring the employee to perform demeaning tasks.
Physical harassment can range from unwanted touching of an employee’s clothing, skin or hair to more severe actions like threats of violence. Sexual harassment may include unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching and negative comments about a person’s gender.
Harassment is not limited to actions by the employee’s direct supervisor. It could include offensive conduct by a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or an agent of the employer.
When the EEOC investigates harassment, it reviews the nature and context of the harassment on a case-by-case basis. Employees should know that they have options to address this unwanted behavior. An experienced employment law attorney can provide guidance and advice.