Skip to Content

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Youth at Work
A young male standing against a wall

The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit workplace harassment because of race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), religion, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information. The laws enforced by EEOC also protect you from being harassed or punished at work because you or someone you closely associate with (for example, a relative or close friend) complains about harassment. We call this your right to be protected from retaliation.

Harassment can take many different forms. It can involve verbal, physical or visual conduct and can occur on or off the work site. The harasser can be your manager, a manager in another area, a co-worker, or others in your workplace, such as clients or customers.

In general, teasing, casual comments, or single instances of inappropriate conduct are not illegal. For inappropriate behavior to rise to the level of illegal harassment, it must be unwelcome or unwanted.  It must also be severe (meaning very serious) or pervasive (meaning that it happened frequently). Inappropriate behavior is also illegal if it results in your employer making an employment decision about you, such as refusing to promote you or demoting you.

A young woman giving an inquisitive look

If you are being harassed at work, you should take appropriate steps at an early stage to prevent the harassment from becoming severe or pervasive. You should tell the harasser that you find his or her behavior unwelcome. If you don't feel comfortable confronting the harasser or the harassment does not stop, you should tell your employer about the harassment. You also can talk to your parents, another adult, or the EEOC.

Find out if your company has a policy on harassment. The policy should tell you who in your company is responsible for handling harassment issues. If you are uncomfortable talking to the designated person, you should talk to your manager or another manager in your company. Once your employer knows that you are being harassed, it has a responsibility to correct the situation and protect you from further harassment. If you do not promptly report workplace harassment, it may affect your rights.