Harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination and is illegal. You should never have to tolerate harassment while at work. Both federal and Washington State law protects you from harassment in the workplace. There are both federal (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and state agencies (Washington State Human Rights Commission) to investigate claims of workplace harassment.
You may be protected from harassment in the workplace based on your membership in a protected class. Legally recognized protected classes include age, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, and, in Washington State, sexual orientation. You may belong to multiple protected classes and you are able to assert claims of harassment based on your membership in more than one protected class. You may even allege harassment when your harasser belongs to the same protected class as you.
Harassment may take both verbal and physical forms, such as comments or physical actions. To be considered illegal, the harassment must be both severe and pervasive, meaning that it occurs regularly. Harassing behavior in the workplace may rise to the level of a hostile work environment. This occurs when the harassment alters and interferes with your employment. For example, you may start to feel isolated or avoid certain locations or individuals to insure that you are not targeted.
Your employer may be responsible for workplace harassment if it fails to take immediate and appropriate action once it is aware of the harassment. At Sipherd Burke Law, we routinely represent clients who have been harassed in the workplace and subjected to hostile work environments. If you feel you have been harassed at work, please contact us.