If you are being treated unfairly at work, and if you’re sure that it’s because of your race, gender, or national origin, then it’s urgent that you learn about harassment, and what the law has to say about such behavior. Without developing such an understanding, you may find yourself pitched against a work culture that could hurt your career and health.
For instance, in March 2020, Porous Materials Inc. was slapped with fines of $93,000 to settle a lawsuit for harassing employees because of their race, gender, and national origin. The owner and manager of Porous Materials were also charged for retaliating against workers who complained against the behavior. They were found guilty of using racial slurs, crude racist remarks, and being abusive towards women and foreign-born employees.
As per the EEOC, the lawsuit succeeded only because of the workers who chose to come forward.
Thus, becoming aware of your rights under anti-discrimination laws is extremely important. These laws cover all industries across the US, including government services and private businesses as well.
What is harassment in the workplace, and why you need to know about it?
In this post, we’ll look at the problem of harassment in the workplace, and share a few tips on how you can address such behavior and respond to an incident at your workplace.
What is Harassment?
The law considers direct and indirect behavior against a person that hurts their right to have a safe workplace as harassment. Such behavior is illegal under Federal and State laws.
Whether you’re experiencing a hostile work environment or being forced into a quid pro quo, you can report the behavior. This includes, behavior that’s physical, verbal, or via emails and text messages. Federal and state laws protect workers from harassment that is pervasive or severe enough and is based on a protected trait of the victim.
Federally protected traits include sex, race, color, national origin, genetic information, age, religion and disability. Pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity also fall under protected traits.
If the hardship that you’re being subjected to at work is based upon a trait that’s protected by the law, then your employer is bound to address the issue. You can report the behavior to your supervisors, managers and employers. Otherwise, you can file a charge with the EEOC and file a suit in the court against the perpetrator. The law allows you to sue your employer as well, if they fail to act on your complaint.
Why is knowing about harassment important?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act deems harassment as unlawful. To be precise, any behavior that’s unwelcome and targets a protected trait of the victim, is illegal under the law.
Unfortunately, a lot of workers tolerate harassing behavior, mostly because they are unaware that their employers have a legal duty to protect them from such behavior. Under the law, it’s an employer’s duty to protect workers from harassment. An employer can be held accountable for failing to act, if they had the knowledge of the behavior. In addition, employers are directly liable for harassing behavior by supervisors.
Another important point is the damage caused by harassment. For instance, businesses have lost about $700 million to such behavior. As per the studies, harassment can cost as much as $22,500 per employee. Additionally, it destroys market reputation, and leads to employee absenteeism and turnover as well.
From a worker’s perspective, harassment can cause physiological and psychological harm. And, it hurts the career advancement of all employees, the victim and bystanders as well.
For instance, as per the records of a harassment case settled last year by the fourth circuit court, workplace harassment forced the plaintiff to leave the job. Moreover, the unwelcome behavior resulted in severe health problems, including heart issues. In the end, the employer paid $100,000 in damages to settle the suit.
Another similar example includes, a race discrimination suit against AA foundries, San Antonio. The EEOC lawsuit charged them with creating a racially hostile work environment. The victims received $200,000 as a result of the lawsuit.
In a similar case, another victim received $1.25 million for her harassment claim in 2019.
In a nutshell, employers are liable for harassment in the workplace. It’s their duty to create a harassment-free workplace for you. Once, an employer is aware of an incident, they are bound to act. Along with this, your employers are directly liable for harassing behavior by supervisors. In other works, if the perpetrator is a supervisor, then your employer becomes accountable for the behavior, automatically.
With this in mind, we recommend that you go through the harassment training provided by your employer. Firstly, the training would help you tackle the threatening behavior. Secondly, it would help you figure out if the behavior is illegal under the law.
Thirdly, you’d become aware of your company’s anti-harassment policy. And lastly, you’d learn about the grievance procedure put in place by your employer.
Altogether, it’s beneficial to educate yourself about harassment before you decide to quit because of such severe behavior. As we have pointed out earlier, the EEOC is put in place to protect the right of workers to have a safe workplace. Similar state agencies are there as well.