1. Home
  2. Questions and Answers for Employees: Harassment at Work

Questions and Answers for Employees: Harassment at Work

  1. What kinds of harassment are covered by the federal laws against employment discrimination that the EEOC enforces?   Federal law prohibits workplace harassment that concerns your race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions; sexual orientation; and gender identity), disability, age (40+), or genetic information. 
  2. What are examples of harassing workplace conduct that would be covered by federal law?  Some examples of harassing conduct include, but are not limited to, saying or writing an ethnic, racial, religious, or sex-based slur; displaying symbols such as a noose, religious or ethnic hate symbols, or racist cartoons; sharing pornography or sexually demeaning images in the work environment; imitating a person’s disability-based limitations or mocking a person’s accent; threatening or intimidating a person because of their religious beliefs, their religious attire, or their lack of religious beliefs; or groping, touching, or otherwise physically assaulting a person. 
  3. When does harassing conduct actually violate federal law?  If harassing conduct is so severe or so frequent that a reasonable person in your position would find the situation to be abusive (and you actually find it abusive), then it is a “hostile work environment.” A hostile work environment violates federal law if it is based on at least one of the protected characteristics listed in response to question #1. Harassment because of a protected characteristic also is against the law if the harassing conduct includes a change to your job, like being demoted, losing hours, losing pay, or getting fired.
  4. My coworker and I (or my boss and I) don’t get along, and they criticize me for no obvious reason. Could this be harassment that violates the federal EEO laws? Standing alone, personality conflicts, disagreements, or incompatibility are not covered by the federal EEO laws, unless the harassing conduct is based on at least one of the protected characteristics listed in response to question #1.
  5. Can only women be the target of sexual harassment?  No, any person, regardless of sex, can be the target of sexual harassment.
  6. Does sexual harassment need to be based on sexual desire to be covered by the law? No, sexual harassment can involve behavior that is intended to embarrass, intimidate, or belittle a person based on their sex.
  7. I work remotely and I interact online with a coworker who harasses me.  Am I protected even though I don’t go to the office? Yes. Unlawful harassment can occur in a physical work environment or a virtual one.
  8. What should I do if I believe I am being harassed at my job? If you believe you are being harassed at work, you should take appropriate steps at an early stage to prevent the harassment from continuing or getting worse. You should tell the harasser that you find the behavior unwelcome. If you don't feel comfortable confronting the harasser or the harassment does not stop, you should tell your employer. Your employer may have an anti-harassment policy providing details about how to report harassment.
Enabled In-page Navigation