Legally Speaking: Harassment in the Workplace
Harassment has no place in the workplace! It may take the form of offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. In any form made, such conduct is actionable and considered as a form of abusive, derisive, unwelcome behavior, directed at individuals. It may be based upon any one or more specifics of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information (heredity).
In the workplace, harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates individual rights, protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).
While petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) may not rise to the level of illegality, conduct creating a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people, is unlawful. The harasser may be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a coworker, or a non-employee. The victim does not have to be the person harassed but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. Unlawful harassment may occur even without economic injury, or discharge of the victim.
The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has clarified the standards: harassment becomes unlawful where: (1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or (2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under the applicable laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.
Employers and management personnel are urged to implement individual conduct standards necessary to avoid employee harassment or offensive horseplay, which may give rise to serious and costly workplace discrimination claims.
J. NORMAN STARK is an Attorney-at-Law, Architect Emeritus, (AIA, NCARB), admitted to practice law before the Bar of Ohio, the US District Courts, Ohio, the US Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. He has over 40 years of experience in construction and consulting expertise in construction accidents and disputes. He has professional experience in Business and Personal legal claims, Real Estate, Public and Private Construction, Litigation, Arbitration, Mediation and Expert Witness services. His office is in Cleveland, Ohio.
His experience includes forensic expertise and investigation in construction contracts, construction law, products liability, construction claims, claims and loss damages, work injuries, construction defects, mechanics’ liens, jobsite injuries, jobsite deaths, architecture, building codes, standards, water intrusion, mold, lead contamination, copyright and design defects. Mr. Stark is the author of the Construction Claims Investigation Worklist©