Understanding the Difference Between Harassment and Discrimination

It’s hard enough to have to get up and commute to work every morning without facing a hostile work environment. Unfortunately, though, millions of Americans work in an environment where they face harassment and discrimination on a regular basis. These workers must deal with derogatory comments, sexual harassment, name-calling, demotions, lack of opportunities for pay raises and promotions, and even wrongful termination based solely on their appearance.

Harassment and discrimination are similar in some ways but are two different terms. Read to learn about what they entail so you can determine if you are a victim.

What is Harassment?

Harassment tends to involve a pattern of behavior. Harassment occurs when an employee feels unaccepted, intimidated or uncomfortable due to the actions of others. There are many types of behavior that fall into this category, including put-downs, insults, slurs, name-calling, unwanted touching, offensive cartoons and jokes, physical assault, threats, ridicule, and mockery.

A one-time incident typically does not constitute harassment. The behavior must be persistent and severe enough that it creates a hostile work environment. A person can face harassment from co-workers, customers or management.

What is Discrimination?

Discrimination is primarily done by the employer. It involves making employment choices for employees based on protected categories, rather than the employee’s knowledge, skills, education, experience or performance. It often sabotages one’s employment and makes them unable to advance in their careers. Employers often discriminate based on age, gender, disability, pregnancy, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Discrimination is often hard to recognize because it can be done in a subtle manner. It may involve reassigning projects, not hiring a person or refusing an employee a raise because the person is pregnant, is considered old or has a disability, even though he or she is qualified to do the job.

Unlike harassment, there needs to be no pattern of behavior when it comes to discrimination. Discrimination is against the law the first time around. It may involve hiring and firing decisions, promotions, pay, job assignments, training, benefits and other aspects of employment

Employer Liability

Victims of discrimination and harassment are encouraged to inform the harasser that the behavior is unwelcome. They should also report the situation to management so that the appropriate steps can be taken.

Employers can be held liable for discrimination or harassment in the workplace. The employer can avoid liability only if two elements can be proven:

  1. The employer made a good faith effort to resolve the situation and prevent future harassment from occurring.
  2. The employee did not accept the corrective measures the employer provided or attempted to provide.

Work with an Experienced New Jersey Discrimination Attorney

Have you faced harassment or discrimination in the workplace? Maybe you’re not sure, but know that you’ve been treated unfairly and want to protect your rights.

Nobody deserves to work in an uncomfortable environment. If your current work situation has you stressed out, count on the New Jersey workplace harassment attorneys at The Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP to help. Let us help you with the next steps. Give us a call (609) 722-7026 to schedule a free case review today.