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Workplace Harassment & Hostile Work Environment

What is workplace harassment?

Workplace "harassment" is a type of unlawful employment discrimination that exists when an employee suffers unwelcome harassment because of his or her race, national origin, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, or other "protected category." It is also illegal to harass an employee for opposing employment discrimination or participating in an EEO investigation or proceeding.

Types of potentially illegal harassment at work include racial slurs, sexual harassment, derogatory displays, jokes, or comments, and other unwelcome acts or statements because of a person's protected status.

When is workplace harassment illegal under Title VII or other employment discrimination laws?

Not every slight or annoyance on the job violates employment discrimination laws. To be illegal, the harassment must affect a term, condition or privilege of employment in that it creates a "hostile work environment" or results in a "tangible employment action" (sometimes called "quid pro quo" harassment). There must also be a basis for holding the employer liable in that the employer knew or should have known about the harassment in the workplace but failed to take appropriate action.

What is a hostile work environment?

Hostile work environment is a theory of workplace harassment. According the U.S. Supreme Court, a hostile work environment exists when the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment.

By contrast, conduct that is not sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile or abusive environment is generally not actionable under employment discrimination laws. For example, simple teasing or offhand or isolated comments that are not serious in nature generally will not rise to the level of a hostile work environment.

If you have questions about sexual harassment, other workplace harassment or a hostile work environment case, contact an experienced employment lawyer today. For a consultation or quick case review, call attorney Lori Searcy at 703-644-4122 / 202-393-1443 or complete the employment law case review form.

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Age Discrimination
Civil Rights Acts
Disability Discrimination
Employment Discrimination & Harassment
Employment, Severance & Non-Compete Agreements
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA)
Federal Employee Rights
Military Leave & Reemployment Rights
National Origin Discrimination
Overtime & Minimum Wages
Race Discrimination
Religious Discrimination
Retaliation for EEO Activity
Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment
Pregnancy Discrimination
Title VII
Whistleblower Retaliation Claims
Workplace Harassment & Hostile Work Environment
Wrongful Termination
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* Searcy Business Litigation & Employment Law represents clients in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia, including Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Prince William County, the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax. The firm also serves clients in the Virginia counties of Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Frederick, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Warren, as well as the cities of Fredericksburg and Winchester, Virginia and more.

All legal information provided on this website is general and should not be used or relied on as legal advice as legal advice cannot be given without full
consideration of all relevant information relating to a specific situation.

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