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Employer may be liable for harassment

New York has specific rules that employers must follow to avoid claims of harassment. Additionally, various federal statutes prohibit this type of behavior.

Specifically, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits harassment of disabled individuals, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on multiple grounds. Legally-prohibited harassment is that which pertains to an individual's age if over 40, national origin, religion, sex, color, race, disability or genetic information. Furthermore, to be illegal, the harassment must be severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would find that it creates a hostile working environment. Typically, slight annoyances or misconduct does not rise to the level of being illegal. Instead, illegal conduct may include offensive slurs, jokes, names, intimidating comments, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures and work performance interference. Harassment may be charged by someone other than the person being victimized by it. If the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates harassment allegations, it looks at the nature of the charged conduct, the context in which the alleged conduct transpired and the entire record.

Additionally, employees are protected from retaliation. This includes harassing a person who has filed a discrimination complaint, testified in a hearing or participated in an investigation, proceeding or lawsuit that they believe is based on the discrimination of an employee. If the employer takes adverse employment action against the victim, it will be liable for the harassment conducted by a supervisor.

Because each harassment case is decided on a case-by-case basis, an affected individual may choose to consult with an employment law attorney. He or she may be able to tell the victim about the possible options that are available to him or her in a harassment or retaliation case.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Harassment", November 03, 2014

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