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Harassment: It's Against the Law!

February 15, 2012

It has come to our Union’s attention that some RNs feel they are being harassed and discriminated against by fellow RNs. This must stop not only for the health and safety of all RNs on the units, but also to protect the job and license of those who may not be aware that their behavior is negatively affecting others and that they can be fired and even sued in civil court for harassing and discriminatory actions.

Federal and State law says that “harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) 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, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.

Also, the victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct, such as other RNs, CNAs, secretaries, or techs on the unit.

If this type of behavior sounds familiar to you, knock it off immediately! No one deserves to be subjected to discrimination and you are putting your job at risk by participating. Be the professional you were trained to be.

The Difference Between ‘Hostile Work Environment’ & Bad Manners

Some workers are under the false impression that hostile behavior at work is against the law. The fact is, it’s not. In order for behaviors at your place of employment to be deemed an illegal hostile work environment, it must involve discrimination against a protected class (see article above).

Employment laws, as the Supreme Court has observed regarding Title 22, are not intended to act as a “general civility code.”  If there’s not a discriminatory motive, Title 22 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act aren’t implicated.

“Managers shouldn’t let their employees harass each other simply because it may not be illegal,” says Local 121RN Attorney Jake White.  “That’s not good for the hospital, patients, or employees, and your Union Representative should be notified to help resolve these types of problems on your behalf. But, unfortunately, it’s not against the law to be a jerk.”