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Differences Between Workplace Harassment and Employment Discrimination

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Workplace harassment and employment discrimination are two of the most common employment-related lawsuits. Although they are very similar, there are some differences between the two as well. Below is a quick note on how workplace harassment differs from employment discrimination. If you’re facing a workplace harassment or employment discrimination lawsuit, or if you feel that you have been harassed or discriminated against, contact a reputable California employment litigation lawyer to ensure you know how to proceed.

Differences between Workplace Harassment and Employment Discrimination

According to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), workplace harassment is defined as an unwelcome action taken by a co-worker, supervisor, or employer that is based on the race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or any other protected category of the employee, that falls outside of the job description of the person committing the harassment. On the other hand, employment discrimination is described by FEHA as treating different employees differently based on their protected rights. This discriminatory action of the employer or supervisor must be within their job description to be considered employment discrimination; basing disciplinary action on an employee’s protected group status or not hiring someone specifically due to their status as part of a protected group would be an example of this.

California law categorizes workplace harassment into two types of behavior: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo is a form of sexual harassment at the workplace wherein the employer or supervisor offers employment benefits to the employee in exchange for sexual favors.

Hostile work environment refers to a form of harassment wherein the co-workers, employer, or supervisor makes disparaging comments on the race, gender, or ethnicity of the employee, or behaves in a pervasive offensive manner that makes the work environment unfriendly for the employee.

Both quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment involve actions or behaviors that are not part of the actual job duties of the person committing workplace harassment. It can be compared to bullying in the workplace, which makes the working conditions difficult for the employee.

The interpersonal interactions that lead to workplace harassment, be it sexual or non-sexual, are not done as part of their official duties or on behalf of the employer. On the contrary, employment discrimination happens when the supervisor or employer expresses unfairness through official employment actions.

Employment discrimination may include mistreating the employee, such as increasing the workload, disallowing leaves, canceling promotion, etc., based on gender, sex, race, ethnicity, or other protected rights of the employee. These actions are taken as part of the actual job duties of the person discriminating.

For instance, a company is planning to lay off a few employees because of an economic downturn, and it decides to lay off only Mexican-American professionals regardless of their good performance. The action is taken as part of the management’s official duties, but it is based on the race of the employees. This indicates employment discrimination in the workplace. If you are a business owner facing an employment discrimination or workplace harassment case, it’s crucial to contact a California employment law attorney to ensure your case is dealt with responsibly.

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