Harassment – Racial, Sexual, Sexual Orientation

Harassment is repeated conduct that is not wanted and is known to all parties involved to be offensive.

Racial harassment is conduct where one individual repeatedly engages in conduct that is not wanted and that is offensive towards another person because of that person’s race, color, or ethnicity. Racial harassment can include racial or ethnic slurs, the distribution of racially offensive writings, and even treating a person differently and poorly because of that person’s race.

Sexual harassment, in employment situations, is repeated conduct where unwelcome and unwanted advances are made to a person by one or more other employees. The comments are of a personal nature and often sexual in style and manner.
A sexually hostile work environment is one in which a person is treated differently either in the types of duties or responsibilities assigned to that person or in how that person is disciplined, reprimanded, or otherwise treated in the work place, based on that person’s sex or gender.

Sexual orientation is not currently included as a protected class (race, color, sex or gender, religion, national origin, mental or physical disability) under federal and Ohio law. This means right now there are no federal or Ohio laws that protect people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning from discrimination or harassment. In Ohio today, it is perfectly legal for an employer to fire or terminate an employee for no reason other than that person identifies as LGBTQ. In Ohio today, it is perfectly legal for a landlord or property owner to refuse to sell, lease, or rent an apartment or house to a person who identifies as LGBTQ for no other reason that that person’s sexual orientation. However, federal courts and federal agencies like the EEOC and HUD, as well as state agencies like the Ohio Civil Rights Commission operate under guidance that discrimination or harassment against a person because that person identifies as LGBTQ is the same as discriminating against that person because of their sex or gender.

Simply stated, while LGBTQ people are not expressly included in a legally protected class of citizens like racial and religious minorities are, the current state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination against a person based on that person’s sex or gender are interpreted to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and harassment. Therefore, an individual or entity engaging in LGBTQ discrimination or harassment is subject to and would suffer the same civil penalties as if the discriminatory or harassing conduct had occurred against any person because of their sex.

The law does not consider a single instance of hostility – whether racial, sexual, or related to sexual orientation – to constitute harassment. The legal requirement to have a claim of harassment is that the harassment must be both severe in nature and pervasive, meaning the harassment occurred repeatedly over time (or is ongoing) with no meaningful intervention to end or stop the offensive conduct.