Are you dealing with illegal workplace harassment? Is one of your managers or superiors abusing their authority and creating an uncomfortable atmosphere for you to complete your work in? Unfortunately, bullying is not confined to the playground. Sometimes adults put down other adults because of sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, genetic information or national origin. California state laws as well as Federal laws consider these attributes “protected classes” and it is illegal to harass someone at work because of their status as a protected class.
Harassment in the workplace is defined as behavior that is both unwelcome and offensive, behavior that an employee has voiced an objection to. The conduct is so severe that it impedes or inhibits the victim from carrying out their duties at work. Furthermore, it is ongoing – creating a workplace where a reasonable person would find it hostile or abusive.
Harassment can occur in various forms. It comes in the form of verbal abuse or abusive conduct and in the act of threatening, intimidating or humiliating employees just trying to complete their jobs. Workers should not have to tolerate derogatory remarks, insults, or epithets. Additionally, they should never have to put up with threats, whether they are verbal or physical, or intimidation of any kind on the clock.
Harassment includes ridicule, mockery, insults and put downs, and can include the display of offensive pictures. It can occur from a co-worker, an agent of the employer, or even a supervisor for a different department. Unfortunately for workplace bullies, in both the United States and the state of California, every employee has the right to work in a non-hostile environment.
What behavior falls under the definition of workplace harassment?
- Racist nicknames, phrases or slang.
- Inappropriate and abusive images, emails, notes or letters.
- Innuendos and veiled threats.
- Offensive, insulting or obscene jokes and stories.
- Offensive clothing or artwork.
- Abusive or vulgar gestures and sounds.
- Making negative remarks about physical or mental disabilities.
- Trying to convert an employee to a different religion or political mentality.
- Assault in any way.
- Blocking or interfering with an employee’s movement.
- Sexual Harassment.
How can my employer be held liable?
Employers that are found guilty of workplace harassment can be forced to compensate workers for the harm that they have suffered on the job. They may have to pay for doctor appointments, pharmaceuticals, and damages for physical suffering and pain. They may also be forced to pay punitive damages. How much they are forced to pay can depend on the level of knowledge your employer had about the abuse, how severe the harassment was, how long you had to endure the inappropriate behavior, and the intent of the harasser.
How Can I Protect My Rights?
If your employer is unaware that you are facing abusive conduct, they cannot be held liable for your suffering. It is important to make your employer aware of any workplace harassment as soon as it happens. They may be protected against liability if they have taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment and discrimination. Additionally, if you, as an employee have failed to take advantage of your company’s preventative opportunities to defend yourself at work, your employer may escape liability as well.
What Should I Do if I am Facing Workplace Harassment?
First, you should always report the harassment. Your employer will not be held liable if you don’t verbalize your objections to the way you are being treated. You should take advantage of your employer’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. If your employer does not have any written policies regarding harassment, report any abuse to an immediate supervisor.
Keep detailed records of the abuse that you are being forced to tolerate – make reports of the negative behavior, and be specific. Include all conduct that you are dealing with. Take notes on relevant events that are occurring with the abuse, and save any harassing emails, offensive pictures, or physical evidence of any kind that corroborates with your story. Keep a file of write-ups and your employer’s policies about workplace harassment. Contacting an employee rights attorney is strongly suggested, as they can help you determine if you fall into a protected class, help you meet legal deadlines, and advise you on how your employer can be held accountable.
The staff at the Employee’s Rights Group are passionate about the basic human right to be treated with dignity and respect at the workplace. Our team strives to really listen to victims of workplace harassment and to give these people a voice and their day in court. Please contact us today for more information on how we can assist you.