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Employees have the right to work in an environment free from harassment or discrimination. Unlawful harassment occurs when you are subjected to unwelcomed behavior because of your race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, military status, nationality, disability, or pregnancy status. Contact our experienced employment attorney if you believe you have been subjected to unlawful harassment, sexual harassment, or hostile work environment to learn more about your rights.  

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The EEOC defines harassment as unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy status, national origin, older age (40+), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history). Harassment becomes unlawful when the offensive conduct endures for an extended period of time becoming a condition of continued employment, or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Offensive conduct may include offensive jokes, slurs, name calling, physical assault or threats or physical harm, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures. In certain situations, harassment may also take place outside of the workplace, such as comments made via social media, while traveling for work, or attending work sponsored events.  

Sexual harassment is a subsect of harassment based on a person's sex. Sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, making your job conditioned on sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. 

It's important to note, however, that note all jokes, slurs, insults or other acts that cause you stress are unlawful. Courts have regularly ruled that anti-harassment or anti-discrimination laws are not a form of civility code, and that petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents will generally not rise to the level of illegality. For the conduct to be unlawful, it must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable person and be rooted on the person's protected status, such race, color, sex, religion, national status, etc.

Employees have an obligation to report employment harassment to their supervisor and follow the company's harassment and discrimination reporting policy. An employer must be made aware of the offensive behavior, be given an opportunity to investigate the behavior, and prevent it from continuing. An employer may avoid liability if it can show that it had a reporting policy, but the employee failed to follow its policy and provide an opportunity to correct the offensive behavior.


An employer may not retaliate against you for having reported or opposed unlawful harassment. If your employer terminates your employment for having reported or opposed harassment or a hostile work environment, that is wrongful termination for which your employer may be liable.


Contact our experienced Portland metro employment attorney to help you determine if you have been a victim or unlawful harassment, sexual harassment, or hostile work environment. 

Other Resources:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI)

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