Understanding employment law and the types of harassment

On Behalf of Dunlap Fiore, LLC |

Accusations of harassment can do significant damage to a Louisiana business. This is true whether it is sexual harassment or any other form of harassment. Knowing the different types of harassment under the law is essential for the employer to formulate a defense. There are two kinds of unlawful harassment. They are “this for that” – also known as quid pro quo; and a hostile work environment form of harassment.

Quid pro quo is generally perceived to mean that there will be decisions in the workplace made based on the person who claims to be the victim accepting or rejecting sexual advances and requests for sexual favors. However, there can be other forms of quid pro quo. For example, if conduct is unwelcome based on the employee’s religious affiliation, this too can fall into this category of harassment. Often, this kind of harassment is alleged against someone in a position of authority over the person who asserts that he or she is the victim. There can be threats of firing, demotion or depriving the person of a promotion.

Hostile work environment includes conduct on the part of someone in the workplace that is deemed hostile or offensive. It can be a co-worker, a contractor, a customer or anyone else the victim interacts with while working. Examples might be jokes that could be deemed offensive, touching, making gestures, saying epithets, being crude, interfering with the person’s work, and being physically hostile. There are many more.

For this to be a legal violation, it must be unwelcome and the victim must have protected status. The behavior must also be considered subjectively abusive and objectively pervasive and of sufficient severity that it interferes with the work the person is trying to do as it is such that a reasonable person would believe it hostile or abusive. The frequency, severity, how it affects the alleged victim, if the person committing the acts was a superior, and if it was threatening or humiliating will all be factored in.

Many employers are not aware of this type of behavior until a legal filing is pursued by the person who claims to be a victim. Even though these types of behaviors are unwarranted, uncalled for and illegal, it does not always mean that the employment regulations were violated. The employer must protect itself with a strong employer liability defense. Discussing a case with an attorney who is experienced in all aspects of employment law is essential.

Source: dol.gov, “What do I need to know about…Workplace Harassment — Two basic types of unlawful harassment,” accessed on Aug. 15, 2017