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Overview of harassment in the workplace

Under California law, harassment in the workplace is considered a type of discrimination. When an employer engages in harassment that is based on sex, race, color, religion, age or disability, they may be found to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Minor acts of disrespect at the workplace may not be serious enough to be considered harassment. Inappropriate behavior becomes unlawful when it is so pervasive that the work environment is a hostile place. An employee who brings a harassment lawsuit must also show that the behavior in question must be endured as a condition of their employment.

Some examples of inappropriate behavior that could be considered harassment in the workplace are name-calling, the use of slurs or interference with an employee's work performance. Offensive objects or pictures that are displayed in the work environment could also lead to a harassment claim. As a hostile work environment may affect all of the employees, victims of harassment do not necessarily have to be the people who were being directly harassed. Anyone can easily be offended by the inappropriate behavior.

A worker who is being forced to endure a hostile or abusive work environment in order to keep their job may want to speak with an attorney about whether or not the behavior qualifies as harassment. If the employee has a strong case, an attorney may be able to help them to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit in order to seek compensation for their ordeal.

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

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