Harassment is a form of discrimination. To succeed in a claim of harassment, you must show that the harassment was based on your race, gender, national origin, age, disability, perceived disability, record of a disability, religion, sexual orientation, or retaliation for a prior complaint of unlawful activity.
There are generally two types of harassment: hostile working environment harassment, and quid pro quo harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a manager tells a subordinate employee that the employee will receive favorable treatment on the job (or will avoid unfavorable treatment) if he or she complies with an improper request – for example, that the boss will not fire you if you perform sexual favors.
The more common kind of harassment is hostile working environment harassment. You must show that the harassment against you was unwelcome, severe or pervasive (frequent) conduct which fundamentally altered your working environment and made it into an abusive workplace. Generally, a stray remark or isolated incident will not constitute hostile working environment harassment, unless it is so extreme that it shocks the judge or jury – for example, a workplace rape.
If you believe hostile working environment harassment is occurring, it is important to use whatever mechanisms your employer has available to file a complaint regarding this harassment, to give the employer an opportunity to stop it.
Whether or not you have already filed a complaint, please contact Bryan Schwartz if you believe you were subjected to illegal harassment at work and you need a lawyer's advice.
Be mindful of your deadline to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or, if your situation arose in California, with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. If you were retaliated against for blowing the whistle on unlawful activity other than discrimination, then read the Whistleblower section.