Many potential clients call our offices claiming that they are being harassed. When potential clients ask us if they have a potential case because they are being harassed, the biggest question to ask is whether it is the kind of harassment that is a violation of law. Unfortunately, not all types of harassment in the work place are violations of law.
Harassment is only unlawful when the harasser is harassing the employee because of the employee’s protected characteristic or activity. A protected characteristic includes sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, marital status, race, national origin, ethnicity, or disability. Thus, for example, it would be unlawful for a supervisor to harass a worker because of his or her race. Unfortunately, this means that it may not a violation of law for the supervisor to simply be a jerk or mean to the employee. Harassment can be verbal (i.e. – racial slurs) or physical (i.e. – offensive touching), and even visual (i.e. – making offensive gestures).