Harassment in the Workplace
Harassment in the workplace is a form of employment discrimination. Unlawful harassment is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and as such is illegal. Unfortunately harassment can come in many forms, both verbal and physical and can be based on any of the following forms of discrimination:
Conduct is considered harassment when it is severe enough to create a hostile work environment. In the case of a supervisor or manager, if their harassing conduct results in a negative change in any employee’s status or benefits, it is considered harassment and a violation of the employees rights under the law.
If you or a loved one feels they are working in a hostile environment as a result of harassment in the workplace, you need to contact a Washington employment law attorney from HKM Employment Attorneys at once. Our attorneys have over 40 years combined experience dealing with all aspects of employment law. We understand that harassment in the workplace can be extremely unpleasant and emotionally trying. That is why we are here to fight for you and ensure justice gets served.
Understanding How Harassment Creates a Hostile Work Environment
When unwelcome comments are made to an employee or unprofessional conduct is based on some form of discrimination it is considered harassment. If such behavior interferes with an employee’s work performance or their ability to do their job, then that harassment is considered to have created a hostile work environment. It is not just managers or executives that might harass or create a hostile work environment, any employee is capable of committing this type of harassment. Additionally, victims of harassment extend beyond the employee for whom the offensive conduct is directed. Anyone who is adversely affected by the harassment is also considered to be a victim.
Here are some examples of harassment which can create a hostile work environment:
- Leering or staring in a suggestive manner
- Making offensive comments
- Using racially derogatory words or phrases
- Making any type of racial comments
- Making negative comments about an employee’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof)
- Making negative comments about an employee’s age (if employee is over 40)
- Uncomfortable or inappropriate touching
- Telling inappropriate or sexual jokes
- Derogatory statements about a person’s mental or physical disability
Hostile Work Environment Explained – Video
Washington State Laws Regarding Workplace Harassment
Complaints of harassment and discrimination within the state of Washington are governed by the state’s Human Rights Commission. Though there are state laws against general malicious harassment of a person in any environment, including the workplace, there are no federal or Washington state laws in that have been passed outlawing workplace bullying or a “hostile” work environment. Washington was the 4th state to introduce prospective legislation called the Healthy Workplace Bill, which would protect employees from bullying or hostile behavior on the job. The bill has been introduced several times since 2004, however has yet to be passed into law. Should the law pass, workplace behavior would no longer need to meet the high standard of “harassment” in order for a victim to be entitled to legal redress. However, until the law passes, isolated incidents, bullying, or hostile behavior that does not meet the test for full-blown harassment may still go unpunished.
Whether behavior equals harassment under Washington law depends on the specific facts of each individual situation and the totality of the circumstances surrounding the behavior. If you are a Washington employee and believe you have been harassed in the workplace, you should consult with an attorney to see if you have a case. On the other hand, if you are an employer being accused of workplace harassment, bullying, or causing a hostile work environment, you should also consult with a Washington employment lawyer to ensure you are not held responsible for behavior that does not constitute true harassment.
There can be instances where an employee may feel harassed or feel uncomfortable in the work environment which are not classified as harassment per federal laws. It is important that you consult with an experienced employment law attorney. The attorneys at our firm include a former deputy prosecutor, former judges, clerks , a Super Lawyer and some Rising Stars. We are very familiar with all aspects of employment law and can quickly analyze your claim and advise you of your legal options.
Schedule your private consultation today by contacting a Washington employment law attorney at HKM Employment Attorneys.