Other Forms of Illegal Harassment

Most people are aware that sexual harassment is a potential violation of the civil rights laws thanks to the Anita Hill/Clarance Thomas debate in the early 1990s, but other forms of harassment are just as illegal.   Both state and federal law prohibit harassment of employees based not only on sexual matters, but harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disabilities and age as well.  In some cities (such as Fort Worth & Austin), sexual orientation harassment is also prohibited.  However, not every joke or name calling incident violates the law.  Rather, the courts will only provide protections for actions that are so severe and pervasive that they either interfere with an employee’s work performance, or they create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.  The list of what is and what is not actionable harassment cannot be summarized here because it would be too expansive, but it is important to note that courts and juries will be asked to find a violation only when the conduct is clearly offensive to the victim, and to a reasonable person.  Also, failure to comply with a legitimate-company policy on harassment by reporting violations by coworkers and supervisors may also prevent a victim from obtaining monetary relief for illegal harassment.

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