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The basics of harassment as employment discrimination

Federal law considers harassment a type of employment discrimination. This means that job applicants and workers in Maryland, or any other state, cannot be harassed because of their gender, color, race, religion, age or national origin. Harassment based on genetics, disabilities or in retaliation for participating in an investigation or proceeding related to the job is also prohibited under discrimination laws.

When offensive conduct is unavoidable or bad enough that it creates an atmosphere that is reasonably abusive, intimidating or hostile, the harassment is unlawful. It is also illegal when putting up with the offensive behavior is a condition for continued employment. Such conduct might include offensive name calling or jokes, threats, intimidation, insults or the display of offensive photos or objects that interfere with an employee's work performance.

The instigator of this type of discrimination could be a supervisor, co-worker, agent or non-employee. The affected employee also does not need to be harassed directly; it could just happen around the individual and cause offense. Workers are urged to notify the instigators directly that their behavior is not welcome and needs to stop. If it does not, the workers should report the issue to the managers who oversee the instigators.

In the event that a worker continues to be harassed at work, the individual has the right to file a discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This agency investigates harassment allegations by reviewing the kind of the behavior and context in which it reportedly occurred. Then, it makes a decision on whether the conduct is unavoidable or so bad that it is unlawful. Employees who are being harassed and wish to take legal action after filing a claim could talk to lawyers about what remedies may be available.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Harassment", November 03, 2014

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