What Counts As Sexual Or Racial Harassment In A Rhode Island Workplace?

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V. Edward Formisano - Employment Litigation - Super Lawyers

Answered by: V. Edward Formisano

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Sexual and racial harassment are unacceptable in the workplace. Both are also prohibited by state and federal law. In general, any activity that creates a hostile work environment or has a negative effect on your employment can rise to the level of illegal harassment, whether based on your race, sex or other legally protected trait. Both employers and employees can be held accountable for this behavior. 

Hostile Work Environment Definition 

Many people have coworkers they would rather not interact with and bosses they would like to avoid. However, behavior only becomes illegal when it specifically involves a protected trait – in this case your race or sex – and is severe or pervasive. While a single offensive remark may not be legally actionable, a pattern of behavior or a single extreme incident can sufficiently impede a person’s ability to do their job so that they can claim a hostile work environment. 

Examples Of Sexual Harassment 

According to the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment can include the following:

  • Promises of professional advancement in exchange for sexual favors
  • Unwelcome touching
  • Discussion of sexual topics in your presence
  • Lewd jokes and remarks about your sexual orientation or desires
  • Leering or staring
  • Catcalling

 It is important to note that anyone can be the victim of sexual harassment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The laws prohibiting sexual harassment apply equally to everyone. 

Examples Of Racial Harassment 

Racial harassment can also take many forms, including:

  • Racial slurs
  • Offensive symbols or gestures
  • Insults relating to a person’s skin color or racial background
  • Ongoing comments about the race of a person’s spouse

However, this list is far from exhaustive. Many other kinds of activity can qualify as racial harassment as well. 

Documentation Is Key 

To establish that you have been the victim of racial or sexual harassment at work, you should gather as much evidence as possible. Save emails, texts and ask if coworkers would be willing to give a statement corroborating your account. You should also keep a journal that chronicles the offending behavior. No amount of documentation is too much. The more you have, the stronger your case will be. 

It is also important to enlist the services of a qualified attorney as soon as possible. Even though your experience may be crystal clear, navigating the legal specifics can be difficult, and doing so on your own can unnecessarily jeopardize your claim.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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