Your place of work should be a safe environment, free from hazards and dangerous conditions of a physical nature, as well as those of a psychological manner. This means that harassment and abuse must not be tolerated.
But, what constitutes this type of unlawful behavior at work? There are laws in place identifying legally prohibited discrimination and harassment, but it’s not always cut and dry.
Laws Against Workplace Discrimination
Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Immigration Reform and Control Act are federal laws that address prohibited discrimination based upon the following criteria:
- Gender/Sex and associated conditions, such as pregnancy
- Genetic Info
- National origin
- Citizenship status
- Age when a worker is between 40 and 70
Georgia state law adds these protected classes as well:
- Gender-based equal pay
- Physical, mental, learning disabilities or mental retardation
- Workers between the ages of 40 and 70
Agricultural and domestic workers are excluded from these legal defenses, while public employees enjoy additional state law safeguards against discrimination that is based on their race, national origin, religion, color and sex. On a federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the regulating agency for employment discrimination. There is also a state level EEOC office located in the Atlanta District Office.
Hostile Work Environment
As you can see, there are many protections in place to fight workplace discrimination. But how do they protect you from abuse and harassment? One important way the law helps in this area is by prohibiting a hostile work environment. This environment occurs when an employee is subject to repeated unwanted conduct and behavior by others in the workplace. These other parties may be co-workers, supervisors, bosses, contractors or even customers. To meet the legal requirements for a hostile work environment, the treatment you are receiving must make your place of work a hostile, intimidating or offensive place to be. The abuse or harassment must be of a severe nature that is abusive and pervasive.
How do you know whether your situation meets these conditions? Often, you don’t. However, if you feel intimidated, bullied, harassed, uncomfortable and victimized at work on a regular basis and your employer either ignores your complaints or is part of the harassment, you have rights.
What You Can Do
First, check whether your company has a harassment policy. If so, go through the proper channels to report the abuse and harassment. If this fails to resolve the issue or there is no policy to follow, the next step is to contact an experienced Workplace Discrimination lawyer to discuss your options. Your attorney can review your situation, determine whether the behavior you are being subjected to rises to the level of legally protected abuse and harassment, and help you file a civil lawsuit to remedy the situation. The important thing to note is that you don’t have to put up with this unwarranted treatment. You have legal options and protections that will allow you to hold the abusive and negligent parties accountable.