Are You a Legal Professional?

Discrimination and Harassment

Discrimination or harassment in the workplace should never be tolerated - they undermine productivity and expose businesses to potentially costly lawsuits. Federal law protects employees from discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and a number of other protected characteristics. Federal law also protects employees from harassment, a form of sex discrimination that includes unwelcome sexual advances or taunts. In FindLaw's Discrimination and Harassment section, you can find information and resources to get you up to speed on harassment and discrimination, while providing strategies for handling employee complaints and creating a more harmonious workplace. More specifically, you can find articles about different types of discrimination that can occur in employment, and tips for creating practices and policies that foster a workplace environment free of discrimination and harassment.

Discrimination in Employment

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides citizens and residents of the United States with protection from various forms of discrimination in a variety of situations. One area in which discrimination is barred is in employment. This federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on religion, sex, national origin, race or color. This law applies to employers who have 15 or more employees, but it's a good idea to abide by this law regardless of your company's size because it's good practice and there may be similar state laws that apply to smaller companies.

Depending on the type of discrimination, an employer will have to act in a certain way. For example, preventing religious discrimination involves also providing reasonable accommodations for the person's religious beliefs and practices. This includes not scheduling selection or examination activities that conflict with a current or prospective employee's religious needs. Of course, if the accommodation would cause an undue hardship to the employer, it's not considered "reasonable" and doesn't need to be instituted.

Sexual Harassment in Employment

Employers must provide a safe and secure workplace for their employees. Being safe and secure includes preventing sexual harassment at work. Sexual harassment is prohibited under the same laws that prohibit other types of discrimination, such as religious or race-based discrimination. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates a hostile, offensive, or intimidating workplace environment. Sexual harassment can take many forms, and both men and women can be the victim of sexual harassment. As an employer, it's important that you prevent sexual harassment at your business by taking some easy steps:

  • Train employees regarding sexual harassment.
  • Monitor your workplace.
  • Create a sexual harassment policy that is easy to understand.
  • Encourage employees to come forward and take complaints seriously.

Following these steps will not only help you prevent sexual harassment at your business, it can also limit your liability in the event that sexual harassment does occur.

Hiring an Attorney

As an employer, it's important to have practices and policies that don't discriminate against any current or prospective employees. If you have questions or concerns about the practices and policies at your business, you may want to consult with a local employment law attorney.

Learn About Discrimination and Harassment