You have protections against discrimination.

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination. Federal laws prohibit harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, genetic information, status as a protected veteran, or protected activity (such as filing a discrimination complaint or participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit).

Harassment that creates an objectively hostile work environment also may violate the law, even if no negative employment action has taken place. Your employer will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control if it knew, or should have known, about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.

Your employer is automatically liable for harassment by your supervisor that results in a negative employment action, such as firing you, failing to promote or hire you, or loss of wages.

You have the right to file a complaint or a Charge of Discrimination, participate in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit, engage in any protected equal employment opportunity (EEO) activity, or oppose harassment or discrimination without being retaliated against by your employer.

What this means for you

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must be severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including:

  • the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a coworker, or a non-employee (such as a customer or vendor).
  • the victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.

Sexual harassment, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature, is unlawful. In addition, offensive remarks about a person’s sex may be illegal sex-based harassment. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by repeatedly making offensive comments about women in general.

You generally have a right to protection from discrimination regardless of your immigration status, although, in some cases, immigration status may limit the remedies that you’ll be able to obtain.

Need more information?
The elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses) Advisors are a set of online tools developed by the U.S. Department of Labor to help employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities under Federal employment laws.