Unfortunately, many employees are subjected to harassment and bullying at work that is just as uncomfortable and just as immature as anything that happened on the schoolyard. The law protects employees from workplace discrimination and hostile work environments, but employers often try to intimidate employees out of taking legal action or convince them that the mistreatment they are receiving from their work supervisors and co-workers is their fault. If you are tired of working in an environment full of bullying, gaslighting, and harassment, contact the Minnesota workplace harassment lawyers at HKM Employment Lawyers LLP.
Workplace Harassment is a Form of Discrimination
The employment discrimination lawsuits that you see in the news headlines often involve employees being fired or passed over for promotions, and the employees and their lawyers making a strong case, strong enough to convince a judge, that the reason for the employer’s actions was the employee’s race, gender, or religion. When you read a news report about a verdict or settlement in a discrimination lawsuit, though, you are only reading the final outcome; the situation where the employer or a court acknowledged the discriminatory behavior only came after years of efforts on the part of the employee and their employment discrimination lawyer. Most of the time, workplace harassment and discrimination begin in situations just like yours, with derogatory comments about the employee or the employee’s race or gender or offensive jokes shared among “included” colleagues but in the presence of “excluded” ones. The situation often escalates slowly until it becomes unbearable, but things truly get ugly enough for the employee to contact a workplace harassment lawyer only after the employee tries to solve things on their own by talking to their direct supervisor or to the human resources office.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based on protected categories related to the employee’s body and the employee’s family origins. These are the categories on the basis of which the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in the workplace and during the hiring process:
- Race, ethnic background, or skin color
- Country of citizenship (except certain government jobs where U.S. citizenship is a requirement) or country of origin
- Sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation
- Religion, sect, or lack of religious practice or belief
- Marital status, pregnancy, status as a parent, or the potential to become a parent
- Age (if the employee is at least 40 years old)
- Temporary or permanent disability
Minnesota law includes two additional protected categories, namely receiving public assistance and participating in a human rights organization. It also prohibits retaliation against employees who complain about discrimination, request disability accommodations, associate with members of protected groups (whether or not those members have ever complained of discrimination), or participate in investigations about workplace discrimination or human rights violations.
The law’s definition of employment discrimination includes workplace harassment. Harassment, by nature, is an ongoing process. Do not wait until your employer threatens to fire you or until your workplace becomes truly unbearable before you talk to a workplace harassment lawyer about your rights.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
One of the reasons that employees often suffer in silence for a long time before consulting an employment lawyer about workplace discrimination is that there is no mathematical formula that determines what makes a hostile work environment. If it were so simple that 10 instances of derogatory name calling in a year constituted harassment but nine did not, there would be many more workplace harassment lawsuits. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, harassment is a form of discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment counts as harassment. A hostile work environment is one where the behavior of co-workers and supervisors bothers the employee enough to interfere with the employee’s ability to do their job.
These are some examples of behaviors in the workplace that, if they happen frequently enough that they interfere with your work, count as harassment and contribute to a hostile work environment:
- Derogatory comments about the employee or the group to which the employee belongs
- Using offensive terms to refer to a group to which the employee belongs
- Unwanted comments about the employee’s physical appearance
- Unwanted touching
- Offensive, inappropriate, and unprofessional jokes
- Unwanted and excessive staring or leering at the employee
Unfortunately, these behaviors are common in some workplaces. Work supervisors and HR employees might tell you that you should ignore it, but you should not. You have the right to work in a harassment-free environment.
If Things Get Worse After You Complain to Human Resources
If stopping workplace harassment were as simple as complaining to human resources, employment discrimination lawyers would have a lot of free time on their hands. Often, the situation gets worse when employees complain to human resources about bullying and harassment in the workplace, especially when the co-workers responsible for the harassment hold high-ranking positions and bring prestige to the employer. Even if the response you get from human resources is the opposite of what you were hoping for, do not give up.
Instead, you should document all instances of harassment from the time that you first notice that the harassment was not just one or two isolated incidents. Your employment discrimination lawyer will help you gather and organize additional information to make it obvious to your employer and, if necessary, to a judge, that your employer’s actions were discriminatory and unfair.
Contact a Minneapolis Hostile Work Environment Lawyer
You do not have to tolerate bullying and harassment in the workplace; the law is on your side when you stand up against workplace harassment and other forms of employment discrimination. Contact the Minneapolis workplace harassment and hostile work environment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.