What is Harassment?

Harassment is an issue that many Indiana workers face on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the employment laws protecting Indiana workers from harassment are narrow in scope and often provide more protection to employers and harassers than to the employee who is the victim of the harassment.

In order for the harassment to be unlawful, the basis for the harassment has to be something covered by an employment law. Indiana law does not require employers or co-workers to be friendly to all employees or to provide a pleasant and friendly work environment.

Common types of harassment experienced by Indiana workers that may be against the law include sexual harassment, racial harassment, age harassment, religious harassment, national origin harassment, disability harassment, and pregnancy harassment. Common types of harassment that are not covered by any laws in Indiana include harassment due to body piercings, tattoos, personality, weight, appearance, and, in most cases, sexual orientation.

Many people who experience harassment due to one of the areas covered by a law may not have a case due to the high standard the courts impose upon harassment cases. In order to win a harassment case, an employee must prove not just that the harassment was due to a protected category, but also that the harassment was severe or pervasive. Many workplace actions that are rude, offensive, derogatory, and inappropriate simply are not deemed to be bad enough by judges and juries to entitle an employee to compensation.

Even if the harassment is against the law and severe or pervasive, an Indiana employee must be able to prove that his or her employer knew about the harassment and failed to take proper action to end the harassment. In cases involving harassment by a manager or supervisor, that hurdle is often easy to meet. However, in cases involving harassment by a co-worker or several co-workers, unless the employee can prove they put their employer on notice of the harassment and that the company failed to take effective measures to stop the harassment, they may not be able to recover compensation regardless of the severity or pervasiveness of the harassment they experienced.