Understanding Workplace Harassment and Employer Responsibility
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, (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA) and/or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination. The EEOC defines harassment as unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. In addition, employers are responsible for following any other federal, state, or local laws protecting additional characteristics or persons from harassment.
Harassment becomes unlawful where:
- Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or
- The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.
In addition to wanting to be on the right side of the law, it’s simply good business practice for employers to take steps to foster an environment where workers are expected to treat each other with dignity and respect.