Workplace Harassment Attorney
Harassment in the workplace is not uncommon, but it is illegal. If you or a loved one have been victims of workplace harassment, then contact Heidari Law Group today for a free case evaluation.
What is Workplace Harassment?
Harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination that employees are protected from by both federal and state laws. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) provide employees with a multitude of protections against unwanted conduct in the workplace. Employees are also protected against retaliation for engaging in the complaint process such as filing a harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), testifying in a harassment case, or participating in the investigation process in any way.
It’s considered to be an unlawful level of harassment when:
- Enduring the unwanted conduct becomes a condition of staying employed or
- When the conduct is pervasive or severe enough that it creates a work environment that would be considered to be abusive, hostile, or intimidating by a reasonable individual.
Petty annoyances, slights, and isolated harassment incidents will typically not qualify as unlawful but could be considered illegal harassment if the conduct creates a hostile work environment for a reasonable employee.
Offensive conduct in the workplace can include a wide variety of actions such as making offensive jokes, interfering with work performance, using slurs, name-calling, intimidation, making threats of violence, physical attacks, ridicule, hanging offensive pictures, or other forms of workplace abuse.
Types of Workplace Harassment
- Discriminatory Harassment. This type of harassment is based on the victim’s perceived inclusion in a protected class. Discrimination-based harassment in the workplace can include bullying someone for their race, religious beliefs, disabilities, age, or sexual orientation. Examples of discriminatory harassment include making racial slurs or jokes, making fun of someone for being a male working in a role often perceived as a woman’s, having intolerance towards religious holidays, refusing to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee, or leaving an employee out of workplace meetings or activities because of their age.
- Sexual Harassment. Unwanted sexual conduct, advances, or behavior in the workplace. Examples of this form of harassment can include inappropriate touching or gestures, making sexual comments or jokes, sharing sexual photos, or invading someone’s personal space in a sexual way. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a prevalent issue in industries such as the restaurant or entertainment business. According to a study conducted by the EEOC, over 25% of women have or will face some type of sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Psychological Harassment. Bullying of someone’s psychological well-being. Psychological harassment in the workplace is often verbal but can also involve belittling someone’s ideas, constantly challenging someone, isolating or denying someone’s presence, or spreading rumors about someone.
- Physical Harassment. Also known as workplace violence, this type of harassment involves threats, physical attacks, or even assault. Some examples of physical harassment include threatening behavior, making direct threats of violence, destruction of property, or physical attacks. Workers in the healthcare, social services, education, and public transportation industries are at the most risk for this type of harassment.
- Retaliation. Taking actions to prevent or punish an employee’s involvement in a protected, whistleblower or anti-discrimination activity. This includes enforcing disciplinary actions such as demotion, termination, non-promotion, or non-selection on employees for their participation in protected activities.
- Quid Pro Quo Harassment. A type of harassment where benefits or advantages are offered to an employee in return for sexual favors. This form of sexual harassment can also be used as blackmail.
- Power Harassment. Intimidation, threats, blackmail, or any other sort of harassment driven by a power disparity between the harasser and the victim. Examples of power harassment in the workplace include making excessive or unreasonable demands that cannot be met, intruding into an employee’s personal life, or making demeaning demands which are far below an employee’s capabilities.
- Personal Harassment. The bullying or singling out of a particular employee regardless of their inclusion/exclusion from a protected class. This form of harassment isn’t necessarily illegal in itself, but can still create a hostile or uncomfortable working environment for employees which can harm their well-being and the company as a whole. Examples of personal harassment in the workplace can include making offensive jokes, personally humiliating someone, using intimidation tactics, making critical remarks about a particular employee, or making inappropriate comments.
- Online Harassment. Also known as cyberbullying, online harassment in the workplace creates a hostile work environment for employees through digital harassment on social media platforms or online chat applications. This type of harassment comes in many forms such as sharing humiliating secrets or pictures of someone through email or on a public chat forum, sending harassing messages to the individual, or spreading rumors or gossip about an individual on social media.
Reporting Workplace Harassment
Based on federal law, most American employees have 180 days to initiate the complaint process with the EEOC, but this limit can be longer or shorter in certain states based on local laws. However, federal employees are only given 45 days from when the harassment occurred to contact an EEO counselor regarding a complaint.
The recommended first step in dealing with workplace harassment is to confront the harasser directly, bring it to their awareness that the behavior or conduct is offensive. If the harassment continues after the issue has been brought to the employer’s attention, then an employee should follow the company’s listed policies first before filing a formal complaint with the EEOC.
The first step in filing an official complaint is contacting an EEOC counselor. From here, the employee is often given the choice of participating in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program to try to settle the dispute between the involved parties. If the ADR program is not successful in resolving the complaint, then the employee can lodge an official complaint against the employer with the EEOC. The complaint must be filed within 15 days of receiving notification from the EEOC on how to file.
If the complaint is not dismissed for a procedural reason, such as it was filed outside of the allowed date, then the agency is given 180 days to investigate the claim and form a conclusion on whether or not the discrimination occurred. From this part of the process, the employee can either request a hearing with the EEOC or accept/deny the decision that the agency made regarding whether discrimination occurred. If the employee disagrees with the decision made by the agency after the investigation, they can file for an appeal & challenge the decision in a federal district court.
Filing for Lawsuit
After the formal complaint process has been completed, the employee can choose to file a lawsuit. This can be done:
- After 6 months have passed from the complaint filing date, the agency has not filed a decision from the investigation, and no appeal has been filed.
- After 6 months have passed from the day an appeal was filed but no EEOC decision has been issued.
- Within 3 months of the agency making the decision on the complaint investigation and no appeal has been filed.
- Within 3 months of receiving the EEOC’s decision on an appeal.
Put an End to Workplace Harassment with Heidari Law Group
If you’re facing unlawful harassment in the workplace, then you don’t have to weather the storm alone. There are a great deal of resources available to help employees across the country recognize and fight the harassment they’re facing in the workplace.