General "harassment", like yelling, screaming, demeaning language, or
unfair workload, is not "unlawful" if based merely on a personality
conflict. Such conduct is only illegal if the harasser is motivated by
Racial motive may be proven by showing that others of different races
were treated more favorably. Racial motive may also be inferred from
discriminatory remarks, stereotypes, racial joking, or slurs.
Also, only harassment that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to
alter the conditions of employment and create a hostile or abusive work
environment is illegal. That means that isolated, infrequent, trivial or
merely offensive comments would usually not suffice. However, if the
comments are severe enough, like egregious racial slurs, they need not
be as frequent. Also, if the discriminatory remarks are combined with
frequent, general harassment, like yelling, screaming, or use of a
demeaning or disrespectful tone, the combination may be sufficient to
violate the law.
Since the conduct must be “unwelcome” to violate the law, a case is
usually strongest where the employee has told the harasser to stop and
also reported the conduct.
Reporting the conduct is particularly important where the harasser is a
co-worker rather than a supervisor. If the harassment is perpetrated by
a mere co-worker, you will usually need to show that a supervisory
employee knew or should have known of the problem, but failed to take
action to correct it. If the harasser is a supervisor, the employer will
be liable for his conduct whether it knew about it or not. However, an
employer that was unaware of supervisory harassment, and had promulgated
and enforced effective anti-harassment policies, will likely avoid
liability for punitive damages provided that it takes immediate and
effective remedial action once it learns of the situation.