Legal Harassment: Everything You Need To Know

Harassment can take various forms, including physical, sexual, verbal, or cyber-harassment by emails or social media. This type of activity is frequently planned and repeated. Harassment can result in both civil and criminal consequences for the perpetrator.

Harassment in the legal sense relates to actions that appear to be distressing, upsetting, or threatening. They arise from discriminatory motives and have the consequence of nullifying or restricting a person’s ability to exercise their rights. 

When these behaviors occur regularly, they may be considered bullying in common parlance. The consistency of repetition and the upsetting, worrisome, or menacing quality may be apart from a simple insult or admonition.

Harassment Law and Legal Definition

State laws define harassment as behaviour patterns that bother, threaten, intimidate, alarm, or place people in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwelcome, uninvited behavior that degrades, threatens, or offends the victim, creating a hostile environment. 

Harassing behavior can include but is not limited to epithets, derogatory comments or slurs, and lewd propositions. It also includes assault, physical interference with normal work or movement,  impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching, and visual insults like derogatory posters or cartoons.

What Constitutes Harassment Unlawful? 

Harassment is illegal discrimination if it occurs as a result of or in connection with one of the following factors:

  • age
  • gender reassignment 
  • ethnicity, faith, religion, or belief
  • sexual orientation 

These are referred to as protected qualities in the Equality Act. Harassment connected to a protected characteristic is when someone is harassed because of one of these characteristics.

Reasons or Aims Behind harassments

Harassment is defined as behavior that is intended to or has the impact of either:

  • violating your dignity, or
  • creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, degrading, or offensive environment

Indicating that harassment occurs even if the harasser did not intend to offend or frighten you, as long as the harassment produces one of the outcomes listed above.

If you go to court, the judge may have to assess whether or not the behavior is harassment. They’ll consider how the behavior made you feel and whether the judge justified your feelings.

Types of Legal Harassment

1. Criminal Harassment

State laws define criminal harassment. Though each state defines criminal harassment differently, in most circumstances, you must demonstrate the presence of the following factors to pursue a criminal harassment claim:

  • The defendant acted with malice.
  • The actions were monotonous.
  • The activities posed a credible threat to the victim or their family’s safety.

Harassment accusations can range from a minor infraction to a serious felony. Before considering what the defendant should be charged with, courts weigh various considerations, including past crimes and if the defendant violated a restraining order.

The defendant’s target of a protected group is also taken into account by the courts. When someone targets victims based on their national origin, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability, this is known as profiling. If you’re facing a harassment charge, it’s a good idea to consult with a criminal defense lawyer to help you through the legal system and preserve your rights.

2. Civil Harassment 

Cases of civil harassment are not prosecuted as criminal offenses. In civil harassment cases, you can file a civil lawsuit alleging discrimination due to the harassment. In the following situations, civil harassment lawsuits are very common.

3. Harassment in the Workplace

Discrimination in the workplace is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, and religion is all examples of this. State and local governments have also passed legislation to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace.

Even the most seasoned HR professionals are prone to overlooking signs of provocation in the workplace. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of what each of your representatives is doing regarding harassment. Representatives have their unique ideas about how to conduct themselves professionally in the workplace. One employee may think revile phrases are acceptable in regular conversations with coworkers, while another believes they are never acceptable and finds them particularly unfriendly.

4. Written or Verbal Harassment

The most obvious workplace provocation—and the one you run into regularly—is verbal or written. Composed harassment is when someone sends a message with offensive jokes or images concerning race or religion. Composed harassment is when someone asks for dates or sexual favors more than once, either in person or by text. Obtaining information regarding a family’s medical history or a hereditary condition is a kind of verbal or written harassment.

5. Physical Harassment 

Physical harassment is defined as the use of obnoxious hand signals or other actions to convey derogatory statements. Physical harassment includes unwanted touching of a guy or his clothing. Physical provocation is defined as following a man as often as possible or standing overly close to him on purpose.

6. Visual Harassment 

Visual is perhaps the most difficult to identify because it is the most subjective and requires you to put yourself in the shoes of a reasonable person. Visual harassment is when someone wears clothing that has a hostile or unpleasant tone. Visual harassment is defined as the display of sexually explicit blurbs or photographs.

How to Stop Harassments?

Keep calm, and don’t feel compelled to rush to your boss every time something happens. If the tormenting persists despite everything, you have the option of taking your case to the next level. Whether it’s to a higher-level administration employee or a legal counselor, most work lawyers provide a free consultation and will provide you with their expert legal advice.

  • Filing a Lawsuit

You must first file an administrative charge with a state agency before filing a discrimination or harassment case under federal law. There is a legal requirement: they will dismiss your lawsuit if you file a lawsuit before filing a charge (technically known as “exhausting” your administrative remedies). Before bringing a discrimination or harassment lawsuit based on state law, several states require employees to file an administrative complaint with the state’s fair employment practices agency.

Unless the agency decides to bring a lawsuit on your behalf (which is extremely unlikely), it will finally finish processing your claim and provide you with a notice of right to sue. You have the option of filing a lawsuit once you receive the letter.

After receiving your right to sue letter, there are short deadlines for submitting an administrative charge and launching a lawsuit. If a lawyer doesn’t already represent you, you should get legal counsel as soon as possible. A lawyer can evaluate the merits of your claims, ensure that you do not miss any deadlines, design your administrative charge, and assist you in negotiating with your employer.

After receiving your right to sue letter from a state or federal administrative agency, you may bring a lawsuit. For questions regarding filing a lawsuit, you require the assistance of a lawyer. As a result, you should consult an attorney when subjected to illegal workplace harassment or discrimination.

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