Most people are aware it’s illegal to be harassed at work, but what exactly does that mean? Probably everyone who’s ever had a job has encountered at least one person who was awful to work with. When do horrible personal behaviors become illegal acts in the workplace as defined by state and federal Harassment Law?
What is the Legal Definition of Workplace Harassment?
Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination based upon a trait that is protected by law, including:
- Race, color, or national origin
- Genetic information
Illinois law prohibits discrimination because of the above traits but also protect employees from discrimination based upon:
- Citizenship status
- Order of protection status
- Marital status
- Arrest record
- Military status, including unfavorable discharge from military service
- Sexual orientation
In order to be considered harassment under the law:
- The unwanted conduct must be based on a legally protected trait.
- The employee believed their job was in jeopardy unless they tolerated the harassing behavior.
- The harassment was severe enough to create a hostile work environment.
- It’s possible for one unwanted act to qualify as illegal harassment but, normally, there are multiple illegal acts. Harassment can continue for years.
- Harassing conduct can be either physical or verbal.
- The harasser can be the employer, a supervisor, another employee, or someone else in the workplace, such as a contractor, vendor, or customer.
- The employer either knew about the harassment, or should have known, and didn’t do anything to prevent it.
Verbal harassment is most common and includes name-calling, insults, slurs, innuendos and much else. Insulting someone because of their religion would be one example of verbal harassment.
Physical harassment is less common but more severe, including touching, hitting, or groping. It can be sexual in nature.
Any form of harassment from a supervisor is intimidating because the employee is vulnerable to job loss and believe they must permit the harassment to keep their job.
Coworkers or others can create a hostile work environment because of insults, racial or sexual comments or in many other ways.
If you believe that you are a victim of workplace harassment in Illinois, contact Britton Law Offices, LLC for a free consultation to discuss your legal options. Harassment Law can be confusing, but you have the right to work without enduring illegal conduct. Contact Britton Law today.