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Harassment: Federal

Harassment requirements by state

Authors: James Anelli and Elizabeth Clarke


  • Federal laws prohibit harassment, which is unwelcome conduct directed against an individual based upon or motivated by an individual's membership in a legally protected class. See Governing Law.
  • Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. See Sexual Harassment.
  • Claims of harassment based on characteristics other than sex (such as race, religion and age) are evaluated under the same standards as those applied to sexual harassment claims. See Non-Sexual Harassment.
  • In order to establish a claim of harassment, an individual must show that he or she was subject to unwelcome physical or verbal conduct that affected his or her employment or altered the work environment, or that a supervisor demanded sexual favors in order for an individual to receive a job benefit or avoid adverse employment action (e.g., quid pro quo harassment). See Establishing a Harassment Claim.
  • Employers should also be aware of other types of harassment, such as third- party harassment. See Other Types of Harassment.
  • Once an individual has established a claim of harassment, the employer's liability depends on: (1) who committed the harassment; (2) whether the harassment resulted in a tangible employment action; and (3) the employer's response to the harassment. Employer liability will depend upon whether the alleged harasser was a supervisor or non-supervisor, whether it resulted in a tangible employment action and the employer's response. See Basis for Employer Liability.
  • An employer should diligently manage and prevent harassment in the workplace by taking proactive steps, such as implementing an anti-harassment policy and conducting training for employees and supervisors. See Managing and Preventing Harassment.
  • Employers should ensure that they follow up on all harassment complaints and conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations. See Investigating Harassment Complaints.
  • Employers may be liable for various damages and remedies in connection with harassment claims. See Damages and Remedies.