Many people may believe that sexual harassment is the one and only type of harassment that can happen. In reality, sexual harassment is perhaps one of the most common forms of harassing behavior, but it is by far not the only one. In fact, many states and local governments have very specific anti-discrimination laws that also contain provisions that prohibit harassment for what are sometimes very unique classes of individuals. The following is a primer on some other types of harassment that may occur in the workplace or elsewhere.
Harassment prohibits speech or action which is severe or pervasive enough to create a "hostile or abusive work environment."
Types of Harassment
Race, Religion, Sex, and National Origin
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits harassment on the basis of race, religion, sex, and national origin.
A federal court in Indiana has held that harassment on the basis of age is unlawful under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
This same federal court in Indiana held that harassment on the basis of disability was prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In a different case, a court in Florida held that "fat jokes" directed at an obese employee violated the ADA, as well. A New Jersey court has found that a person could bring a claim for disability harassment based upon two remarks made about his diabetic condition.
Status as a Veteran
Note: A number of states have specific statutes that prohibit harassment or discrimination against individuals based on their veteran status or their membership in the Armed Forces or National Guard.
Sexual Orientation and Marital Status
Courts in particular jurisdictions have found that harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status, as prohibited in state or local statutes or codes, is illegal.
The Code for the City of New Orleans prohibits discrimination based on "gender identification" which includes cross-dressing and transsexualism. In addition the city Code prohibits discrimination, which includes hostile work environment harassment, on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Code for the City of Seattle, Washington prohibits discrimination on the basis of "political ideology."
A handful of jurisdictions, such as Wisconsin and New York, and some private employers and institutions, have laws or policies that prohibit discrimination, including in some cases protection against harassment, on the bases of arrest records or conviction records.
Occupation or Sources of Income
Both New York and Illinois have state statutes that prohibit discrimination and harassing speech that is based upon "citizenship status" and, in the case of New York, "alienage" as well.
The City of Cincinnati, Ohio, prohibits discrimination with respect to terms or conditions of employment based on "Appalachian regional origin."
Smokers and Nonsmokers
A number of states have statutes that prohibit discrimination and/or harassment on the basis of a person's status as a smoker, or as a nonsmoker in some states.
Many states and local governments have statutes or codes that protect against a slew of different forms of discriminatory, and therefore harassing, behaviors.
Specific Examples of What Can Constitute Harassment
Using racial epithets to describe a set of people can constitute racial harassment, even if the epithets are not directed at a particular individual.
Get a Free Initial Case Assessment
If you have been involved in an incident that could constitute racial harassment in your workplace you'll greatly benefit from a conversation with a lawyer. They can evaluate the facts of the incident, the quality of your evidence, and the relevant laws in order to determine how best to proceed. Contact an attorney for a free initial case assessment to learn how the law's protection applies to your situation.
Contact a qualified employment discrimination attorney to make sure your rights are protected.