What actions constitute harassment in the workplace?

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What actions constitute harassment in the workplace?

I was written up today only because I questioned authority; they told me I was late coming back from lunch although I was a few minutes late. I was the only one written up despite others being hours late. I was also given vague threats about my job security for asking questions again.

Asked on February 26, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is a common misconception or misunderstanding that employers may not harass their employees.  This, unfortunately, is not true. If you do not have an employment contract, you are an employee at will; that means you may be fired at any time, for any reason, including no reason at all other than that the employer wanted to fire you. This in turn means that the employer may take any steps short of termination--for example, writing you up, threatening to fire you, telling you to not ask questions, etc. Therefore, as a general matter, the behavior you decribe is unprofessional and unfair, but not illegal.

The only exeption is that the employer may not harass an employee because of his or her race, sex, religion, age over 40, or disability (under federal law; some states add a few other protected categories, like sexual orientation). If you suffer harassment because of one or more of these characteristics, that is illegal; but the employer may legally  harass you for other reasons, including that questioned authority.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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