What is the Difference Between Harassment and Discrimination?

What is the Difference Between Harassment and Discrimination?

Many people use the words discrimination and harassment interchangeably, but they are not the same. What is the difference between harassment and discrimination? The attorneys with Swartz Swidler, LLC have provided the following explanation in the hope that it might help you to understand the difference between sexual harassment and sexual discrimination.

The legal basis for New Jersey’s and Pennsylvania’s harassment and discrimination laws

Employers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are not allowed to hold certain characteristics against their employees. These protected traits include national origin, race, religion, color, marital status, gender, sex, sexual orientation, age or military status. Both discrimination and harassment protections are available for all of these categories in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, the discrimination and harassment laws are found in the Law Against Discrimination. In Pennsylvania, they are found in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

What is the difference between harassment and discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when an employer treats members of certain classes unfairly because of their memberships in those groups or their protected characteristics. Harassment involves acts that are targeted towards one person. For instance, if a woman does not get a raise because she is a woman it is discrimination. If the woman is called derogatory names because she is a woman, it is instead harassment.

In harassment cases, the harasser may be held personally liable and may be sued whether or not the employer knew or should have known that the harassment was happening. In discrimination cases, by contracts, only the employer may be held liable because the harm that occurs stems from the employer.

Sexual harassment versus sexual discrimination

Harassment cases involving sex may take two different forms. In the first, quid pro quo harassment, a supervisor conditions getting a position or keeping a job on providing sexual favors. In hostile work environment harassment, a worker is the recipient of unwanted sexual conduct that is so pervasive that it makes the work environment untenable.

Discrimination based on sex is bias that is directed towards a group because of their sex. It may take several forms and occur in any phase of employment.

Exceptions to the rules

Employers may only use one of the protected characteristics when the employer is able to show that certain characteristics are required for the position. This is referred to as a bona fide occupational qualification. This might include a position that requires climbing and running that a person with some types of disabilities may simply be unable to perform.

If you believe that you have been the victim of illegal harassment or discrimination, you may need to get legal help. Call the experienced employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler, LLC today to schedule your free consultation.