Non-Sexual Harassment

The law prohibits harassment based on sex, an individual’s race, color, national-origin, religion or disability. Racial slurs, derogatory remarks about an accent or religious tradition, displaying offensive symbols can all be illegal if they create an offensive or hostile workplace or when it results in an adverse employment action.

The purpose of the law is to eliminate the inconvenience, unfairness and humiliation caused for workplace conduct of a racial, ethnic, religious, disability and sexual nature.  An employer is responsible for the inappropriate conduct where its agents or supervisor employees knew or should have known of the conduct, unless immediate and appropriate corrective action is taken.

Sexual Harassment

There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment. Quid pro quo harassment is when an employee has to engage in some sort of unwelcome sexual conduct to avoid an adverse employment action or as a requirement of employment. Hostile environment occurs when an employee is subjected to offensive unwelcome sexual conduct by co-employees, supervisors or customers. 

Sexual harassment does not only have to involve sex. It can include harassing an individual because they are a woman or a man. The victim and the harasser can be the same sex.  Harassment becomes illegal when it is so common or severe that it creates a hostile workplace or it results in an adverse employment action.  In order for an employer to be liable, the work environment must be one that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive. In determining whether the environment is hostile, the totality of the circumstances are considered like the frequency of the conduct, its severity, and whether it is physically threatening or humiliating. 

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