Many of us have experienced some form of harassment in everyday life. Generally, harassment, or unwelcomed behavior that is offensive or harmful, can make victims feel uncomfortable and even cause them to fear for their safety.
When harassment occurs in the workplace, victims may be afraid to report it due to fear of losing their jobs. However, employees are protected under federal and state laws which prohibit:
- Quid pro quo harassment-This type of harassment typically means that an employment decision made by a supervisor or other high-level employee (e.g., promotion, termination, demotion) was made based on an employee’s willingness or unwillingness to participate in sexual or religious activities.
- Hostile work environment-This can occur when a supervisor, coworker, or other person in the workplace engages in harmful or offensive behavior that negatively affects the work environment.
If you experience harassment at work, you may file a legal claim against their employer. However, keep in mind that not all inappropriate behavior rises to the level of “unlawful.” Courts will generally require you to establish the following to prove your claim for workplace harassment.
Unwelcome, offensive conduct
Harmful or offensive conduct that is unsolicited and unwelcomed may be classified as unlawful harassment. Some examples of these behaviors include:
- Crude jokes
- Sharing of inappropriate images
- Derogatory remarks
- Inappropriate touching or gesturing
- Sending suggestive emails
To file a successful claim for harassment, you must show that the harassment is discriminatory in nature. This means the harassment must be related to your membership in a protected class (e.g., age, race, religion, gender).
Severe and pervasive conduct
Isolated incidents are generally not enough to constitute as unlawful harassment. The harassment must be a condition of employment and create a work environment a reasonable person would find “intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”
We all have the right to work in an environment where we feel safe and respected. If you are being harassed at work, you can tell your story to an employment law attorney specializing in employment discrimination. Your attorney can then help you decide whether to file a claim against your employer.