Workplace harassment is a serious issue that affects many individuals in the workforce. Not only does workplace harassment have a detrimental effect on people’s mental and emotional health, but it also impacts their work performance and overall well-being.
Understanding the legal protections in place is crucial, such as how to report harassment and what steps to take if harassment occurs, as it provides victims with a framework for addressing harassment. That’s where a workplace harassment lawyer comes in.
Seeking a lawyer’s guidance can help ensure that you have the knowledge and tools necessary to protect your rights and well-being. Therefore, this article will help explore the different types of workplace harassment, the legal protections in place, and the responsibilities of both employers and employees from a lawyer’s perspective.
Types of Workplace Harassment
Various forms of workplace harassment can occur, and it is essential to understand the different types to recognize when it is happening. Here are some of the most common forms of workplace harassment:
- Sexual harassment: This includes unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any other behavior of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment.
- Racial Discrimination: This type of harassment involves unfair treatment of an individual or group based on race or ethnicity.
- Bullying: This includes behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate an individual or group and can include verbal, physical, or psychological abuse.
- Verbal harassment: This includes derogatory comments, insults, or threats directed at an individual or group based on their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or any other characteristic protected by law.
- Physical harassment: This means any physical behavior that makes the work environment uncomfortable or unfriendly. It could include touching someone without consent or any other form of physical behavior that makes someone feel unsafe or uncomfortable at work.
- Retaliation: Retaliation refers to any negative action taken against someone who reports harassment or discrimination or who is involved in investigations or legal proceedings related to such incidents.
Legal Protections in Place
There are several laws and regulations that exist to safeguard employees from experiencing any form of harassment in the workplace. Here are some of the most notable:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This includes harassment in the workplace.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): This act prohibits discrimination against individuals over the age of 40.
- Equal Pay Act (EPA): This act requires employers to pay men and women equally for equal work.
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): This act provides job-protected leave for employees who need time off to care for a family member or deal with a severe medical condition.
Responsibilities of Employers
Employers are responsible for creating a safe and harassment-free work environment for their employees. Here are some of the ways employers can fulfill their obligations:
- Develop a Harassment Policy: Employers should have a clear and comprehensive harassment policy that outlines what behaviors are prohibited, how to report harassment, and what the consequences are for violating the policy.
- Provide Training: Employers should regularly train employees on what constitutes harassment, how to report it, and how to prevent it.
- Investigate Complaints: It is the duty of employers to treat all reports of harassment with utmost seriousness and conduct timely investigations into them.
- Take Appropriate Action: If an investigation reveals that harassment has occurred, employers must take appropriate action to stop the harassment and prevent it from happening again.
- Ensure Fair Pay: Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are paid fairly and in compliance with local and national laws. This includes providing equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender, race, or other factors.
- Provide Adequate Resources: Employers should provide adequate resources for their employees to perform their jobs safely and effectively. It includes providing necessary equipment, tools, and training, as well as ensuring that workloads are reasonable and that employees are not expected to work excessively long hours.
Responsibilities of Employees
Employees also have a responsibility to prevent and report workplace harassment. Here are some of the ways employees can fulfill their responsibilities:
- Understand what constitutes harassment: Employees should educate themselves on what behaviors are considered harassment to recognize when they happen.
- Report Harassment: Employees should report any harassment they experience or witness promptly.
- Cooperate with Investigations: If an employee is involved in an investigation, they should cooperate fully.
- Take Steps to Prevent Harassment: Employees should prevent harassment by setting clear boundaries and speaking up when they feel uncomfortable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Whose responsibility is it to prevent harassment in the workplace?
Answer: Preventing harassment in the workplace is the responsibility of both the employer and the employees. Employers must ensure that their workplace is free from harassment and discrimination by establishing policies and procedures that prohibit such behavior. Employees are also responsible for respecting their colleagues and avoiding any actions that might be considered harassment.
Question: What three factors are commonly used to determine whether conduct is considered unlawful workplace harassment under federal law?
Answer: To determine if workplace conduct constitutes unlawful harassment, three factors are commonly evaluated.
- Firstly, the conduct must be unwelcome.
- Secondly, it must be based on the employee’s protected characteristics.
- Lastly, the conduct must be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment.
Question: Which four characteristics are protected from workplace harassment?
Answer: Under federal law, four characteristics are protected from workplace harassment:
- religion, and
- national origin. However, many state and local laws also protect against harassment based on other characteristics such as gender, age, sexual orientation, and disability.
Creating a Safer and More Respectful Workplace for All: Working Together
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and respectful work environment for their employees, including taking steps to prevent and address workplace harassment. On the other hand, employees have the right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination.
At Swartz & Swartz law firm, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees and holding employers accountable for workplace harassment. We encourage anyone who has experienced harassment in the workplace to contact us for a free consultation to discuss their legal options. Together, we can work towards creating a safer and more respectful workplace for all.