Employers are responsible for creating and maintaining a workplace environment that fosters rather than inhibits productive behaviors. One of the most volatile workplace environments is one plagued by harassment. Women, people of color, gay and lesbian or nonbinary people, and national or religious minorities are most susceptible to harassment in the workplace. Workplace harassment can originate with a single individual or manager or result from the accumulation of behaviors either not controlled by management or even encouraged.

Toxic workplace cultures can be illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

What is Workplace Harassment?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal regulations, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, applies to employers with fifteen or more employees. Together these federal statutes prohibit harassment as unwelcome verbal or physical behavior based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), gender/gender identity, nationality, age (40 or older), physical or mental disability, or genetic information.

Employees suffer from harassment when forced to endure offensive conduct as a prerequisite to continued employment, especially when imposed by a supervisor, or when the behavior is so severe and pervasive that a reasonable person would consider the workplace intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Lastly, if a supervisor’s harassment results in a change in an employee’s salary or status, this conduct might also be unlawful.

Types of Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment can take many forms. Harassment is usually evidenced by offensive jokes, slurs, name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule, insults, and offensive pictures.

Workplace harassment also encompasses sexual harassment, which can be heterosexual or same-sex.

Workplace harassment can result when other employees who aren’t necessarily the targets witness the offensive activity. Seeing such behaviors can have an intimidating impact on everyone. However, isolated annoyances are not unlawful. Federal statutes do not guarantee comfort in the workplace, and only that work environments be free from intimidation, hostility, and abuse.

What Laws Protect You from Workplace Harassment?

In Idaho, residents are protected from workplace harassment by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with additional protections under Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which apply to employers with fifteen or more employees and by the Idaho Human Rights Act, if the company has five or more employees.

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its landmark decision in the case Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII includes employment discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status.

However, to date, the Idaho Human Rights Act or other legislation has not extended the protections of this state law on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. Individual cities have passed protections, although there is nothing yet statewide.

What Should I Do if I Am a Victim of Workplace Harassment?

There are legal options available to you. Most importantly, consult immediately with a skilled and experienced Idaho workplace harassment lawyer to help you document your experiences and develop a strategy to assert your legal rights. Idaho Employment Law Solutions is here to consult and guide you through this disturbing period of your life towards a legal remedy.

In preparation for your initial consultation with a workplace harassment lawyer:

  1. Acknowledge that you are experiencing workplace harassment. Merely ignoring the situation does not end it. Passivity in the face of abuse and intimidation, especially sexual harassment, does not stop the offender. Workplace harassment is often perceived and experienced by others who might not be the targets of the aggression. Get into action mode and find out what others have seen or heard, get their names, and form alliances.
  2. Review your employee handbook. Reporting the harassment under the procedures prescribed in the handbook helps to preserve all of your options, especially when it comes to filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a prerequisite to filing suit under Title VII. However, do not file an internal complaint without consulting with an experienced Idaho workplace harassment lawyer.
  3. Keep notes with dates, times, and witnesses. Protect yourself by documenting the harassment. These notes are important evidence in any administrative or judicial proceeding.
  4. Stay at work and do your best. Since workplace harassment is illegal, you should not have to leave your job. Instead, stay in place, continue to do your best, and begin the process of asserting your rights. Your contribution to the workplace is your best ammunition in any complaint.

Workplace Harassment FAQs

What should I do if I witness workplace harassment? If you witness workplace harassment, you should consult your employee handbook and follow the procedures laid out. If you do not have a handbook, then tell your immediate superior about the incident. Try to avoid giving the harasser any attention or encouragement. Be sure to tell others, including your family and friends, so that you do not feel isolated in your experience.

Does harassment outside of work still qualify as harassment? The harassment can occur on site or off, especially if it is sexual harassment. For example, if some work colleagues gather in a local bar, behaviors there can become illegally harassing, especially if a supervisor or someone who has power over you behaves in an inappropriate way.

Contact an Idaho Workplace Harassment Lawyer

Idaho Employment Law Solutions is an African-American and Veteran-owned law firm providing quality and efficient legal counsel to businesses, organizations, employers/ employees, and individual multi-cultural clients located throughout Idaho.

Idaho Employment Law Solutions is skilled in handling charges of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, race, national origin and pregnancy submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Idaho Human Rights Commission, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Labor. Idaho Employment Law Solutions has extensive experience in handling employee complaints about discrimination or harassment before those complaints become official charges of discrimination. Idaho Employment Law Solutions is experienced in guiding its business clients through sexual harassment investigations and provides advice on a case-by-case basis about the most effective way for the employer and employee to address claims of discrimination.

Contact Idaho Employment Law Solutions by phone at (208) 672-6112 to make an appointment. Legal advice will not be provided over the telephone. There will be a $75 charge for initial consultations.

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Ron Coulter at Idaho Employment Law Solutions has been an essential part of my small business team for over 16 years. He worked with my company to develop company handbooks, employment contracts, and employee training. His preventative work was key to our success when faced with an actual employee contract dispute in court. I am grateful to Ron’s attention to detail, phenomenal work ethic, and genuine care for his clients. Idaho Employment Law Solutions is a great partner for small businesses who want to succeed.

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