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. Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates 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 in the Workplace Laws
These laws define harassment as unwelcome conduct that is based on who a person is. Harassment is unlawful when enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment and when the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment.
Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against employees in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation against the employer or opposing employment practices such as unsafe working conditions. Workplace harassment laws do not view petty insults, annoyances of isolated incidents, unless they are egregious or extremely serious, as illegal. In order to be unlawful, the harassing conduct must create a work environment that is intimidating, hostile or offensive to reasonable people.
Such offensive conduct may include offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, name-calling, physical assaults or threats, ridicule, sharing offensive images or videos and interfering with work performance. A harasser may be the victim's supervisor, an employer, co-worker or even a non-employee such as client or customer.
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
An employer can be held automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in any type of adverse employment action such as firing, failure to hire or promote and loss of wages. If supervisor's harassment results in a hostile work employment, the employer can avoid liability only if they can prove that they reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior and if the employee failed to take advantage of any of these preventive actions the employer took. Workplace harassment laws also state that employers will be held liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom employers have control, such as independent contractors or clients.
If you or a loved one has experienced harassing behavior in the workplace, please understand that there are federal and state laws that protect your rights. Contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney in Los Angeles at Kingsley & Kingsley to get more information about pursuing your legal rights.