Workplace discrimination and harassment are two distinct issues under California law. When dealing with either, employees are at risk for emotional and mental harm, and in some cases, even physical.
While sometimes subtle, the differences between workplace harassment and discrimination are discernable. By understanding some of the basics, workers can spot the signs on the job and report such behaviors before things get out of hand.
What is workplace discrimination?
Workplace discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee poorly based on protected characteristics defined by California law. These characteristics include race, gender, age, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. Discrimination can take various forms, such as:
- Not hiring someone because of a protected characteristic
- Denying promotion or advancement
- Refusing to pay equally
- Terminating without just cause
Discrimination can happen at any stage of employment, from recruitment to termination.
What is workplace harassment?
Harassment involves unwelcome conduct or behavior that creates a hostile work environment. While employees with protected characteristics may become the target of harassment, it can also involve non-protected issues, such as personal conflicts. Sexual harassment is the most common and may involve unwanted verbal or physical advances. Other examples include verbal harassment, physical harassment and cyber harassment.
Employees have a right to work free of personal attacks and harm. Employers have a legal obligation to keep the workplace safe and should address complaints. However, if a company does not take action to stop or prevent harassment or discrimination then impacted employees may want to consider seeking help outside the company.