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When is workplace harassment illegal?

Even though many forms of workplace harassment are forbidden by state and federal law, they are still all too common in Los Angeles and the rest of the country.

Perhaps one of the reasons workplace harassment continues is because workers are unaware of their rights, so harassers get away with the treatment.

According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, harassment occurs when a person is subjected to unwelcome treatment based on his or her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (if 40 or older), disability or genetic information.

In order to be against the law, the treatment is illegal when it

  • Must be endured in order to keep the job or
  • Is severe enough to create what a reasonable person would consider an intimidating, abusive or hostile work environment.

Harassment can also occur when an employee is retaliated against after filing a discrimination charge, participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit, or standing up against practices the employee believes are discriminatory.

If you believe that you have been illegally harassed on the job, you may be wondering who can be held liable and what to do next.

According to the EEOC, the employer is liable for harassment conducted by a supervision that results in a negative employment action.

Employers can avoid liability for hostile work environment claims if they can prove that they made reasonable efforts to stop the treatment and that the employee did not take advantage of the efforts made by the employer to stop the behavior.

Speaking with an experienced employment law attorney can help you determine whether the treatment you endured was considered illegal and whether you may be entitled to damages from your employer or another party. 

Source:, “Harassment,” April 24, 2014

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