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An overview of harassment

When a Michigan employee deals with adverse treatment in the workplace, it may be helpful to evaluate government standards related to the issue. Harassment is a type of discrimination in the workplace that violates several pieces of legislation that provide civil protections to employees. Harassing conduct could be based on issues such as age, disability, national origin, race, color, sex or religion.

In determining whether action is illegal, it is important to consider whether the conduct constitutes a condition of continuing in a position. It is also important to evaluate whether the behavior is serious enough to cause the work environment to be hostile, abusive, or intimidating. Employment discrimination law also prohibits retaliatory actions against employees who have filed charges for discrimination or assisted in investigations or other ways related to action brought because of an employer's alleged harassment.

An individual concerned about possible harassment on the job may wonder about behaviors that may constitute harassment. Issues can include slurs, name calling, threat of physical assault, actual assault, mockery, intimidation, and ridicule. A harassing individual could be a direct supervisor or another supervisor in the company, a co-worker, a non-employee or an agent of an employer. A situation does not have to cause economic consequence or a discharge to be illegal. A victim may be an individual who is being harassed, but anyone affected by such adverse behavior could be considered a victim.

While employees are encouraged to be proactive to ensure that a work environment is free of harassment, fear of retaliation may make it difficult to act directly. An employee who is being harassed or who is affected by the harassment of another might want to discuss the situation with an attorney in order to make decisions about how to proceed.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Harassment", November 02, 2014

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