Understanding the Laws That Protect You From Workplace Harassment

Understanding the Laws That Protect You From Workplace Harassment

April, 2020

No employee should be subjected to unlawful harassment in the workplace. Federal and state laws both prohibit certain types of harassment, which are a form of employment discrimination. There are statutes that protect employees from harassment from co-workers or from their employers. The laws in Ohio largely mimic the federal laws, and it is important that all employees are familiar with the statutes that protect their right to be free from workplace harassment. It is just as imperative that when those rights are violated, employees contact an experienced Ohio employment lawyer who can help.

What is Workplace Harassment?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines workplace harassment as pervasive or severe:

  • Offensive jokes
  • Offensive pictures
  • Slurs
  • Physical assaults
  • Threats
  • Humiliation
  • Insults
  • Slurs
  • Name-calling or epithets

Unlawful harassment is not limited to the above scenarios. If employees feel as though their workplace is hostile, intimidating, or abusive based on race, sex, religion, disability, age, and other forms of prohibited discrimination, it may be workplace harassment. The EEOC also indicates that certain behavior may be illegal if the harassment is a condition of continued employment, or the behavior is repetitive and serious enough to interfere with an employee’s ability to perform the job. In other words, teasing and one-time comments will usually not be enough to constitute workplace harassment.

Federal Laws Protecting Workers from Workplace Harassment

All employees in Ohio, as throughout the rest of the country, are protected from workplace harassment by federal law. The three main laws that protect employees are:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Originally, this Act made it illegal to harass workers and employment candidates based on certain protected characteristics, such as their race, sex, and religion. Over time, courts have expanded Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to also protect employees from harassment based on pregnancy and gender.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA helps protect employees who suffer from a disability. Under the Act, employers must engage in an interactive dialogue with employees to explore reasonable accommodations when requested, and they must not penalize or deny employment opportunities to individuals based on a qualifying disability. The employee must still be able to perform the essential functions of the job and an employer is not obligated to make a reasonable accommodation if it would create an undue hardship for the employer. 
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967: Commonly referred to as the ADEA, this Act makes it illegal for employers with 20 or more employees to discriminate against employees and job applicants who are age 40 or over based on their age. For example, if an employer is constantly asking older employees when they are going to retire, that could be a sign of unlawful age discrimination and harassment.

If an employee believes their employer may have violated these laws, the employee should speak with an employment attorney in Ohio.

Our Ohio Employment Attorneys can Help

If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful workplace harassment, it is important that you understand your legal options, and our Columbus employment lawyers can help. At Marshall & Forman, LLC, our attorneys can walk you through the process of filing a complaint with your Human Resources department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and other governmental agencies responsible for enforcing employment laws. We can also help determine if the employee can file a lawsuit against their employer to claim certain damages when appropriate. If you believe you are working in a hostile work environment, call us today or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.