In today’s workplace, many employees are subjected to an unpleasant environment, and some employees must endure outright harassment on a daily basis. What’s even worse is that some employees can’t leave their jobs for various reasons, and may feel trapped in a terrible environment.
However, workplace harassment in some cases can violate both California law and federal law. By law, if a person is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or retaliation at work, that may constitute workplace harassment. That behavior is a violation of state and federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Several things must have occurred in order for the conduct to be considered harassment. The victim must be a member of a protected class. The victim must also have been subjected to unwelcome physical or verbal conduct as a result of being a member of a protected class. Finally, the harassment must have either been serious enough to make the work environment hostile or must have affected a condition of employment, such as pay, benefits, or job title.
Under law, almost anyone in a workplace can behave in a way that makes the workplace a hostile work environment. This could include a supervisor, a fellow employee, or a non-employee, such as a customer. Some examples of conduct that could create a hostile work environment include telling sexual or racist jokes, using offensive words to describe a particular race, making sexual remarks about a worker’s looks or body, saying negative things about a worker’s disabilities, or mocking a person’s religion. Some rude or mean conduct may not create a hostile work environment, if the conduct consists of mild teasing or occurs very rarely.
If you are being harassed in the workplace and you believe your workplace is a “hostile work environment”, you should report the behavior to your supervisor or management. Hopefully, the conduct will stop and you will enjoy a much better workplace. However, in some cases further legal action becomes necessary. If the conduct doesn’t stop or you were retaliated against because you complained, you may have a course of action against the employer. You may need to file an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor or a charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. In some cases, you will also have to file a lawsuit.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that every employee should be able to work in a harassment-free environment. If you are in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area, and you feel that you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment attorney, at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000. She will help guide you through the next steps you should take. Call her today.