EEO Harassment

Drawing of man in fedora hat covered in words reflecting incivility

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination. Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.  Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or abusive.

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality.  To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.  Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. 

Not all offensive conduct will be sufficiently severe and pervasive to rise to the level of illegal harassment. However, even if conduct does not rise to the level of illegal harassment, managers and supervisors are responsible for holding employees accountable for unprofessional conduct that adversely affects the workplace.

Managers are encouraged to take appropriate steps to prevent and correct harassing conduct. They should clearly communicate to subordinates that unwelcome harassing conduct based upon a person’s protected status will not be tolerated, and take immediate and appropriate action when a subordinate complains of harassing conduct.  Employees who believe they are victims of harassment may also file a complaint with their respective Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office.

The attorneys in the ELLU assist managers in addressing employee allegations of harassment. This includes, but is not limited to, providing counsel on how managers should deal with harassment in the workplace, recommending and evaluating misconduct investigations into allegations of harassment, and defending the Agency against EEO complaints of harassment.

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