Is a Single Incident Enough to Constitute Harassment?

Click for a consultation

Harassment is a violating discriminatory act in the workplace. Any incident violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) constitutes harassment. California also maintains some of the most stringent state laws combating harassment in the workplace.

It is the right of any employee experiencing harassment to file a California employment law claim. Knowing who can file a claim and what laws apply helps protect your right to a work environment free of abuse, intimidation, or hostility.

You Do Not Have to Be the Person Harassed to Be Impacted By Harassment

Many workers feel they have no say in harassment matters when an action or comment is directed at someone else or these actions are generalized in the workplace. Your experience with harassment as an employee may come in an indirect form. Harassment is an undesirable action addressing:

  • Color
  • Disability
  • Genetic information and also family medical history
  • National Origin
  • Older age, starting at age 40
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex, including gender identity, orientation, or pregnancy

These actions constitute harassment and are unlawful any time they:

  • Become a condition employees must endure to maintain employment
  • Create an environment recognizable by a reasonable person as abusive, intimidating, or hostile.

Single Incidents can Constitute Harassment

In addition to federal law, California has ruled that any action, even after being committed only once (Cal.Gov. Code §12923(b)), is a triable offense. An action is harassment and illegal when:

  • It interferes with an individual’s work performance
  • It creates a work environment of hostility, intimidation, and offensiveness

Employers are responsible for immediate action to address any act of harassment in the workplace. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers to have harassment policies in place. Report any incident of harassment involving:

  • Supervisors
  • Non-supervisory employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Customers

There are steps each employee can take to address harassment. Employees are protected against retaliation for taking action against harassment in California.

What to do After Experiencing Harassment

It is never an overreaction to file a report with a supervisor and human resources, even after one incident of harassment. Filing a report is often necessary to prevent other incidents of harassment. When a supervisor initiates the harassment, speak with the next person in charge above them.

Legal guidance can help someone move forward with action and prevent offensive, unwanted acts in the workplace. Report any retaliatory acts taken against you after filing a claim involving a single incident of harassment. Retaliation may occur when:

  • You make an initial report of harassment as a protected class
  • You support a co-worker’s claim of harassment
  • You take legal action against an employer

Taking your claim to an unbiased source with experience and knowledge in harassment law can help you determine if a single incident in the workplace constitutes harassment. Complete protection under the law is each employee’s right. No employee should experience the downplaying of a single incident of harassment.

Where to Begin to Receive Help in a Bay Area Harassment Claim

When you are ready to discuss your case:

Employment Law is complex and exists on the federal and state levels to protect employees from a single incident of harassment or prevalent harassment in the workplace. Discuss your case of workplace harassment with an experienced team in California.