Under federal law, harassment of employees by other employees or their employers is strictly illegal. This includes harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation or parental status. Prohibited harassment can take one of two forms: quid pro quo harassment or hostile work environment harassment, which we will analyze in greater detail.
To stand up for your rights after you have been the victim of workplace harassment, work with a reliable Washington, D.C. attorney at the Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell.
The two types of unlawful harassment
As mentioned above, there are two main types of unlawful harassment.
Quid Pro Quo harassment usually results in a clear employment decision based on the employee’s acceptance or rejection of sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. It can also result from unwelcome contact of religious nature.
The harassment is usually committed by a person who can make employment-based decisions that affect the victim. Examples include a supervisor who denies promotion to an employer for refusing to engage in sexual acts, or a supervisor who requires a subordinate to participate in religious activities.
Hostile work environment harassment results from the unwelcome conduct of coworkers, supervisors, customers, contractors or anyone else the victim interacts with while on the job. Examples include discussing sexual activities, unwelcome touching, indecent gestures, crude language, off-color jokes, demeanor or inappropriate terms, commenting on physical attributes or engaging in hostile physical contact.
Frequently asked questions on workplace harassment issues
Our attorneys at The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell regularly receive questions about workplace harassment law. Here are some of the most frequent examples.
What is the difference between harassment and discrimination?
The main difference is the presence of an adverse employment action. Discrimination always involves an adverse employment action, but harassment can simply involve offensive conduct in the form of jokes, verbal comments or touching.
What constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace?
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, repeated gestures or sexual comments, deliberate display of sexually graphic materials or verbal or physical sexual conduct.
What would be considered a hostile work environment?
A hostile work environment is typically uncomfortable, stressful, and impacts the psychological or physical well being of an employee at the workplace because of inappropriate conduct. In the legal world, such an environment exists if the employee experiences harassment that interferes with his or her work performance. Hostile work environments are common in harassment claims.
What steps are employers required to take to prevent sexual harassment?
Employers are encouraged to provide workplace education about what constitutes sexual harassment and the types of effects it can have on victims. Employers should also institute policies that are conducive to reporting incidents when they occur.
Is the employer always liable for harassment perpetrated by supervisors or employees?
The employer can only avoid liability if it is able to prove that it took reasonable steps to prevent and correct the harassing behavior and if the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of these corrective or preventive opportunities.
Contact a skilled Washington, D.C. workplace harassment lawyer
For more information about how you can file a workplace harassment claim and the steps you need to take in your case, contact a trusted Washington, D.C. employment law attorney at The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell.