Work is a place for professionalism and politeness. However, sometimes people deviate from the proper behavior that is appropriate for the workplace. When that behavior becomes too disruptive, or is motivated by harmful reasons, that inappropriate behavior can cross the line into discrimination and harassment.
Workplace discrimination refers to any act that treats protected groups unlawfully. Most often discrimination refers to unfair treatment on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, color, religion, or disability status. If multiple discriminatory acts are committed against an individual, that may constitute workplace harassment. Harassment is any repetitive or highly disruptive behavior that impairs the victim’s ability to work.
In order to prove discrimination, there are two facts that need to be proven. First, it must be demonstrated that some kind of inappropriate behavior is happening that is harmful to the victim. Second, it must be shown that this behavior was targeted towards a certain protected group of individuals.
In order for behavior to be classified as harassment, it must be shown to either be pervasive or severe and it must be disruptive to the victim’s ability to work. In order to show that a harassing behavior is pervasive, it must be demonstrated that the behavior occurred repeatedly and with some regularity. However, if a behavior is so impactful and damaging that it prevents feelings of safety, then the behavior may be classified as harassment on the basis of its severity.
While it is not necessarily required that a person who is found guilty of harassment or discrimination be fired, it can be a reason to terminate an employee. Often employers will have an employee handbook and policies that prohibit discriminatory or harassing behavior. In that case, an employee may be fired not for necessarily breaking a law but for breaking employee policies.