It is important to understand there are different types of harassment out there. Whether you are looking to hire in a new worker to your company or you are at school, harassment comes in many forms and shapes. Due to this, it is essential to understand the different kinds and what these different issues can mean, should you find yourself in the middle of a harassment argument or even lawsuit.
These four different kinds of harassment are usually lumped together. This is because each one is discussed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which passed in 1964. With this law in place, it is illegal to harass anyone due to their racial background, the religion they practice, their gender or the country from which they are from. This can be anything from not hiring someone due to it to making fun of tone of these different elements of the person. While making an offhand comment can result in problems for you at work, going forward with the harassment and continually saying and acting on it can eventually lead you or a coworker to court.
Age harassment is covered under its own law, known as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Usually this act is used to prevent individuals from not hiring older individuals due to their age, but it works both ways. You or someone you know is not allowed to harass another person due to their age.
For someone who has served in the military, it is against the law to harass them. This came about during the same Title VII inside the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War often found themselves harassed, called names such as “Baby Killer” and were not given jobs they were overly qualified for, simply due to their action in the war (which they might have been forced into any ways). While current veterans do not receive the same kind of negative stigma they did 50 years ago, it is still in place to protect those who serve in the military, regardless of the branch, how long they served or when they served.
Individuals who are considered disabled are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. While this usually revolves around individuals who have a mental illness or other condition that prevents them from living a fully functioning life as most other humans, some states have gone a step further to include people who are overweight. This means it is illegal and considered harassment to make fat jokes and harass someone based on their weight. Different states also have a set number of times a person can say something before it can be brought up in civil court. For example, in the state of New Jersey, if a person makes two comments regarding a person’s condition, that person can file claims in civil court against the individual.
Sexual Orientation and Marital Status
It is not legal to harass someone based on if they are married or not, or whatever their sexual orientation is. Regardless of if a person is attempting to apply for a position or someone is making comments to a person of a different sexual orientation, it is considered harassment and the recipient of the harassment can file claims in civil court. When these claims are made, the person might eventually have to pay a certain amount of money due to emotional distress or, depending on how severe the harassment is, they might face criminal charges as well. All of this points to why it is very important to never harass someone based on any part of their being.
This is different from the sex of a person. While some individuals are born a male or female, they might identify with the opposite gender. They might dress as the other gender, receive hormone shots to help them transform into the other gender, or they might even undergo gender reassignment surgery, where their genitals are switched or they receive breast implants or reductions. Regardless of what they do, harassing them on account of their current gender identification is not permissible by law. This is not a federal law though but it is for many states and cities throughout the country. For others, this sort of a harassment is often left under the sex of a person.
Harassing someone based on their political alignment is not allowed by law. This recently came under fire when the IRS attempted to target specific Republicans and Tea Party members with audits. The individuals sued the IRS based on harassment simply due to their political alignment.
Other Forms of Harassment
There are other forms of harassment that come into play, depending on where you live and where the possible harassment takes place. In some states, it is not lawful to harass someone for being a smoker or nonsmoker. Other states do not allow any sort of harassment based on the country of citizenship a person is from or what their heritage is. States including Wisconsin and New York city have set laws preventing employers from discriminating or harassing based on a person’s criminal history and in some cities, such as Chicago, it is not possible to harass someone based on their occupation or their source of income.
All of these forms of harassment are designed to level the playing field and to prevent other individuals from harassing those who are different form themselves. There are all sorts of different forms of harassment, so it is always best to practice professionalism and to not attack someone, even if you believe it is in good fun, based on any way they are different from you. This way, you are always able to avoid any potential lawsuits and you can live a comfortable, peaceful life, without harassment issues coming up and causing problems for you, your family or any sort of business you might own.