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What kinds of behaviors qualify as harassment?

When you go to work, you expect to be able to do your job in an environment that is respectful and free from mistreatment. Unfortunately, that is not always the case for some California employees. Harassment is an unacceptable type of behavior, no matter the type of workplace, and workers who are experiencing this have the right to speak up and take action.

However, how can you know if what you are experiencing is harassment, or just annoying or rude behavior from your boss or a co-worker? It may be helpful for you to learn about what types of behavior qualify as harassment and what you can do to assert your rights, hold liable parties accountable and make this type of treatment stop.

What is it, anyway?

According to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, harassment is a type of discriminatory treatment. It includes any type of inappropriate or unwelcome treatment on the basis of race, gender, sex, ethnic origin or other factors. You may think that what you are dealing with is just awkward or stressful treatment you have to endure in order to work there, but in reality, it may be harassment if the following factors apply: 

  • You believe the conduct is a condition for continuing to work there.
  • The conduct is such that it contributes to a work environment that's intimidating, hostile or abusive. 

Generally, isolated incidents do not count as harassment, nor do petty comments, annoyances and other minor incidents. Typically, harassment is ongoing behaviors that include things like racist jokes, unwanted physical touch, sexual advances, offensive remarks about race or religion, and more.

In most cases, employers are responsible for ensuring they do not allow the development of a hostile work environment through harassment or other forms of discrimination. If you think you are a victim, you may have grounds to move forward with legal action against your employer.

Taking the next step

If you think you could have grounds for a civil claim, it can help you start with a complete assessment of your situation by a legal advocate experienced in employment law. This can help you understand if what you are experiencing is actually harassment and what you can do about it.

People who experience harassment may not be certain of what to do next, or they may feel ashamed about what happened to them. If you believe you are a victim, you do not have to suffer in silence or endure inappropriate treatment alone.

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