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Difference between harassment and disrespect in the workplace

The state of California, like all other states, has laws against harassment and discrimination in the workplace. However, there are cases where some employees may be disrespectful to others. While disrespect is not illegal, there is a very fine line where disrespect can quickly turn into harassment.

Under state and federal laws, harassment is described as unlawful conduct that focuses on "what" a person is. Protected classes are noted in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For example, it is considered harassment if one employee makes inappropriate jokes or discriminates against another employee due to the employee's sex, race, age, sexual orientation, religion or disability. However, before this type of conduct can be considered harassment, the employee responsible must be aware that the conduct is not welcome in the workplace and that it is pervasive. This means that one-time incidents are not likely to be considered harassment.

Disrespectful behavior, on the other hand, can include the unwelcome use of profanity, unwanted gossip or even bullying. Even though this type of behavior is not illegal, it can have an impact on employee morale and productivity. Because disrespectful behavior can also lead to a hostile work environment, employers should ensure that disciplinary actions are enforced to keep the work environment safer for all workers.

Employees are entitled to certain rights, including the right to a safe work environment that is free of harassment and discrimination. If an employee was fired after reporting harassment or discrimination, he or she may have the grounds to file a lawsuit against the former employer for lost wages and wrongful termination. An employment rights attorney may assist with filing the lawsuit and gathering evidence that provides proof that the employee was fired directly due to reporting the discrimination or harassment.

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