Federal and state laws prohibit harassment in the workplace on the basis of protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and pregnancy), national origin, age, sexual orientation, color, or genetic information. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, harassment that occurs in the workplace can be considered a form of employment discrimination.
These three laws define harassment as unwelcome conduct in the workplace that is based on who a person is. Harassment is unlawful when:
- A person is forced to endure offensive conduct that becomes a regular condition of their employment
- The severity or pervasive nature of the conduct creates a hostile work environment
Can My Employer Retaliate Against Me for Reporting Harassment?
Anti-discrimination laws also make it illegal for employers to retaliate against an employee who reports unsafe working conditions, discriminations, harassment, or any other workplace violations. It is also illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who cooperate or participate in an investigation of their employers' conduct.
What Is Considered Harassment Under the Law?
Workplace harassment laws do not recognize petty insults or minor annoyances as illegal unless they are egregious or extremely serious. In order to qualify as harassment, the conduct must create a work environment that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
The following conduct can be considered workplace harassment:
- Telling offensive jokes
- Using racial slurs
- Threatening others or physically assaulting them
- Ridiculing others
- Sharing or displaying offensive images or videos
- Actions that interfere with a person's ability to perform their job duties
Anyone in the workplace can be a harasser if they commit the conduct listed above. Supervisors, co-workers, subordinates, and even non-employees, like clients or customers, can be held liable for workplace harassment.
Harassment, whether it's sexual or non-sexual in nature, is also prohibited by California law under the Fair Employment and Housing Act found in Government Code 12940 GC. Employees who experience harassment in the workplace have the right to sue their employer for damages.
What The Law Says About Liability
If a supervisor takes adverse employment action, such as firing, refusing to hire or promote, or using unfair wage practices, then the employer can be held automatically liable for harassment. If the supervisor's actions create a hostile work environment, then the employer must prove they at least tried to prevent or quickly fix the harassing behavior. Employers can also avoid liability for harassment if they can prove the accuser failed to use any of the preventive actions the employer took.
Workplace harassment laws also state that employers can be held liable for harassment committed by non-supervisory employees or non-employees that they have control over. This includes independent contractors and clients.
Our Workplace Harassment Attorneys Will Fiercely Advocate for Your Rights
If you or a loved one has experienced harassing behavior in the workplace, then please understand that there are federal and state laws that protect your rights. Contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney in Los Angeles at Kingsley and Kingsley Employment Lawyers to get more information about pursuing your legal rights. Our law firm has a proven record of holding employers of all sizes accountable for breaking the law. We are equipped with the cutting-edge resources that you need to pursue justice and protect your labor rights.