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Workplace Harassment Claims: Lack of Intent is No Excuse

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Employees have a legal right to work in conditions that are free from any harassment that is motivated by illegal reasons such as race or gender. Whether it is sexual harassment, verbal abuse on racial or some form of physical bullying, the harassment needs to stop now.

Harassment is not always a clear cut issue to all parties involved. The harassers often claim that they did nothing wrong. Indeed, many employees report being subject to unlawful harassment in the form of jokes. Their bosses or coworkers tell them to “lighten up” and that they “were just kidding around”. This is no excuse.

If you were a victim of workplace harassment on the grounds of a protected status, you have legal options available. It does not matter if it was only a joke. Impact matters, not intent. To speak to an experienced Chicago workplace harassment attorney about your case, please contact Goldman & Ehrlich today.


Employee Rights: Protected Statuses

It must be made clear that unlawful harassment is distinct from mean comments or generally unpleasant behavior. State and federal labor laws do not seek to regulate kindness in the workplace. Instead, for conduct to qualify as unlawful harassment, it must implicate one of the employee’s legally protected statuses. If the offensive behavior in your case addresses any of the following, either directly or indirectly, you may have a valid hostile work environment claim:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Citizenship status
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Age
  • Pregnancy status
  • Veteran status
  • Marital status


Impact Matters, Not Intent  

Malicious intent is not the key issue in hostile work environment claims. What might be a good-hearted, funny joke to the perpetrator might be downright hurtful to others. The impact on the victimized employee is what matters, not the intent of the alleged harassers. Notably, important employee rights legislation such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that conduct be ‘severe or pervasive’ before it becomes unlawful harassment. If joking behavior is especially offensive, or if it continues without the employer putting a stop to it, then the victimized employee would have a viable legal claim.

Get Employment Law Assistance Today

At Goldman & Ehrlich, our Chicago employment discrimination attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of workplace harassment claims. For immediate assistance with your case, please us today at 312-332-6733 to set up your confidential case evaluation. We represent workers throughout the region, including in Rockford, Joliet and Naperville.

Call Today: 312-332-6733