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What makes harassment in the workplace unlawful?

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2023 | Sexual Harassment, Workplace Discrimination |

Employment discrimination can take many forms, including harassment in the workplace. The law has provisions protecting employees from this type of discrimination. It also defines what constitutes harassment based on the details of the alleged misconduct. As an example, any unwelcome behavior, comments or advances made based on an employee’s sex can be sexual harassment, depending on the situation.

Not all harassment however is necessarily unlawful. The conduct must meet specific requirements to be considered illegal, including the following:

  • It happens repetitively, becoming a condition at work that employees must endure as part of their employment OR the harassment is severe (such as being sexually assaulted).
  • The harassment has a significant impact on the work environment that employees can perceive as hostile or abusive.
  • It is reasonable to relate the adverse environment at work to the ongoing harassment.
  • The harassment is related to the employee’s sex (or race, national origin or some other legally protected characteristic)

If these elements apply to the incident, it could be unlawful, warranting legal action if needed. The law also protects employees experiencing retaliation, which can happen in response to an employee’s participation in a workplace harassment case or making a complaint about unlawful harassment or discrimination.

Employer and employee collaboration to address workplace harassment

Employees can do their part against harassment by reporting incidents immediately and initiating resolution options based on the circumstances. Still, addressing harassment might only be effective if there is support from the employer, such as implementing an appropriate process against harassment and instituting remedial actions to ensure a workplace free from harassment.

In some instances, victims of unlawful workplace harassment can consider further legal options if necessary, depending on the circumstances, particularly where the harassment continues after being reported or where the employee suffers retaliation as a result of complaining about harassment or participating in an investigation. Should such further harassment, discrimination or retaliation occur, the employee should seek the advice and assistance of a qualified and experienced employment attorney