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What is an employer's duty when workplace harassment is reported?

Every day, in companies all across the country -- including many in California -- there are employees subjected to hostile work environments. Workplace harassment is real, and even though all of it may not rise to an illegal legal, it does not mean it is something for employers to ignore. Do you feel you were subject to harassment in the workplace? Do you feel your employer did nothing to stop it? You may have legal recourse.

What is workplace harassment?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment is defined as any unwanted conduct. This does not include petty annoyances or isolated incidents -- unless the isolated incident was quite severe. To be considered workplace harassment, the offensive behavior becomes a regular part of one's work experience and the victim must feel that his or

her work environment has become hostile, abusive or intimidating.

What types of conduct may be considered offensive?

Harassment really knows no bounds. Offensive conduct comes in many forms, including:

  • Offensive jokes
  • Racial slurs
  • Physical assaults
  • Intimidation
  • Interfering with work performance
  • Sharing of offensive materials
  • Insults

Examples of workplace harassment

  • Verbal harassment: A male employee frequently makes sexual remarks to a female employee. Despite her asking him to stop, it continues almost daily.
  • Physical harassment: An employee is frequently touched by a co-worker in a way that makes him or her feel uncomfortable.
  • Supervisor harassment: A manager or supervisor abuses his or her authority by threatening or intimidating staff through emails, conversations and by physical actions, including touching, hitting, groping, etc.

What is an employer's responsibility when they receive a report of harassment?

Workplace harassment is never okay. Unfortunately, there are employers who do not take reports of harassment seriously. In fact, many employers fail to do anything about the reported behaviors. This is unacceptable. Employers are to provide a safe environment for all employees by taking action immediately upon receiving reports of harassment.

If you have reported issues of harassment to your employer, yet continue to be in a hostile work environment due to a lack of attention to the problem, you may be entitled to file legal claims against your employer in a California civil court in an effort to seek compensation for resulting

damages sustained. If you are unsure whether you have a strong harassment case, an experienced attorney can review the facts of your situation and assist you in filing legal claims, if appropriate.

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