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Harassment as a form of workplace discrimination

Discrimination is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This includes harassment based on religion, national origin, race, age, sex and color. Retaliation as harassment is also prohibited in anti-discrimination laws. Michigan workers may not realize the different ways that harassment may occur.

A form of employment discrimination, harassment involves employees who endure offensive behavior as a condition of their employment or endure pervasive or severe behavior that creates an abusive, intimidating or hostile work environment. The offensive behavior may involve crude jokes, epithets, name-calling or slurs, mockery, ridicule or intimidation and put-downs or insults. It could also involve offensive pictures or objects, as well as threats or physical assault, such as sexual advances. Petty annoyances and isolated incidents are not considered illegal unless they are extreme.

Retaliation as harassment could involve a supervisor or employer changing work schedules to make it hard for an employee to attend the job, passing over an employee for a promotion or demoting an employee. These actions must occur because the employee filed a discrimination charge, participated in an investigation or lawsuit, or opposed work practices that discriminate against individuals.

Harassment is not restricted to the offensive behavior of a supervisor or employer. The harasser could also be a colleague or a non-employee. The person being harassed is not always the only victim either. Anyone whom the offensive behavior affects may consider the conduct harassment. Anti-discrimination laws automatically hold employers responsible for workers over whom they have control, including non-employees.

Workers who feel that they are the victims of workplace harassment could file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC reviews the context in which the conduct occurred and the nature of the conduct during its investigations. Employees who feel uncomfortable filing complaints on their own could seek legal support from employment law attorneys.

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