A reader wrote in with this question: “I was harassed at work. Can I file for workers’ compensation?” There’s a good news/bad news answer to this question. Unfortunately, workplace harassment is most likely not a worker’s comp case. The good news is, attorneys who handle workers’ comp claims also frequently take harassment cases.
Is Harassment at Work Legal?
Workplace harassment is not legal. It violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Perhaps the more important question, however, is: What is harassment at work?
The legal definition of harassment at work is “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).”
There are two instances where this unwelcome conduct becomes unlawful. The first is that it becomes a condition of continued employment. The second is the behavior is severe or “pervasive” enough that it creates a work environment that could be considered intimidating, hostile, or abusive by a reasonable person.
The law also prohibits retaliation for filing a charge, testifying, or participating in any way in a workplace harassment investigation.
What’s not harassment? This includes things such as slights, annoyances, or isolated instances. This means that the behavior must be chronic and more serious than simply rude/thoughtless comments or actions.
Other important distinctions about illegal workplace harassment include the fact that you’re legally protected from actions by:
- Your boss or supervisor
- Another supervisor that isn’t your direct boss or supervisor
- Agents that also work for your same employer
- Even non-employees (i.e., vendors, contractors)
In fact, you do not have to suffer direct harassment yourself to file a claim. If another worker’s harassment negatively affects you, it may qualify for legal protections. Also, economic harm isn’t a requirement of a harassment determination, nor must your job fire you to file a claim.
Who Regulates Workplace Harassment?
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate based on:
- National origin
- Genetic information
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
You can sign up for a free phone call from an experienced, local employment attorney to discuss your potential workplace harassment case. Or, a workers’ comp attorney can review your potential claim for free and help you decide whether to proceed. This option’s always free, and it doesn’t obligate you to do anything else. Deciding whether to move forward with your claim or not is always up to you.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.