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Is Harassment a Form of Discrimination?

Posted by B&F Contributor | May 03, 2023

Harassment was, at one point, vaguely recognized as a form of unwelcome conduct, which meant conduct that qualified as discriminatory and not would both fall under it. Eventually, multiple laws were passed over many years, including the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which gave harassment a clear definition. Now, all workplaces in the United States must follow this clear definition of harassment.

As stated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Division (EEOC), “Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).”

Based on this, it leaves many to wonder – is harassment a form of discrimination? The employment law attorneys of Barrett & Farahany can explain. We have extensive experience with employment law, not only as attorneys determined to succeed against the odds, but also as attorneys who have fought for and passed laws in Congress and at the state level. 

What is Discrimination?

Now knowing and understanding what harassment is helps us to understand if it's also a form of discrimination. To start, we should explain what discrimination is.

Also stated by the EEOC, discrimination is “to treat that person differently, or less favorably, for some reason.” This reason can be because of your “race, color, religion, [pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation], national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.” 

Is Harassment Always Discrimination?

The groups of people mentioned in the definition of discrimination match those included in the definition of harassment. This doesn't mean that every instance of harassment is discrimination. Discrimination, by definition, should require that the person be treated differently. This would make it seem like it's not discrimination if the harassment is universal. Does mistreating everyone to relatively the same amount or in the same way, make the harassment not discriminatory?

Technically yes, harassment does not have to be discriminatory, but that's not the case in practice. Commonly, someone's harassment of another person is not compared only to the other people someone has mistreated, but to the standard of decency expected of people in the workplace. It is expected that no one is harassed, across all places of work. For one person to harass another – even if they harass everyone in the workplace to a relatively equal amount – is still discrimination, because this treatment is different from the standard expected in the workplace. So on paper, harassment is not always discrimination, but rarely in practice. 

Why Do You Need an Employment Law Attorney For Your Harassment Case?

While all cases of harassment will be treated as cases of discrimination, harassment is not easy to prove. Small slights and instances will not be considered a case of harassment. Harassment has to be pervasive behavior or one extreme example. It has to lead to an environment that is intimidating, hostile, and/or even offensive to people.

This is not an easy thing to prove, so you need attorneys who are determined to succeed against the odds. It's not enough to use the same tired strategies, but to use creative legal tactics. As one of the oldest and largest employment law firms, we understand that we have to be willing to push the limits of the law to improve the lives of our clients and others. 

Contact the Employment Law Attorneys at Barrett & Farahany

You could contact many other employment law attorneys across the country to help with your situation, but there's something you lose when you go to others who aren't Barrett & Farhany. 

We work and practice to demonstrate empathy and understanding. That's the only way to understand and meet our client's needs for the situations they're in. We have to if we want our clients to value our expertise and experience.

To meet this standard, we work to hone our communication skills to be empathetic, informative, and effective, in and out of the courtroom. Contact our employment law attorneys today.

About the Author

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When you reach out to us, you will receive a complimentary consultation with one of our skilled Atlanta employment attorneys. During our initial consultation with you, we can help you to better understand your rights and will work with you to determine what course of action is in your best interest. We take great pride in providing assistance based on years of experience negotiating and litigating employment matters to protect employee interests. If you find yourself in need of dedicated legal representation, we are prepared to advocate on your behalf – our goal is always to protect employee victims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

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