Persons who are employed in California need to be aware of California-specific laws where workplace harassment and discrimination are concerned. The protections offered in California are much stronger compared to the protections offered under US federal law. According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, there is a distinct difference between workplace harassment and workplace discrimination.
In California, the legal definition of harassment is broken into two different categories. The first category refers to harassment where benefits (such as job promotions or salaries) are dependent upon the victim performing sexual acts on/acting in a sexual way with a supervisor. The second refers to a “hostile work environment” where the actions of one employee or supervisor negatively affect the work environment for another employee. The second sort of harassment may or may not be sexual in nature, and may be committed either by a supervisor or a fellow employee.
On the other hand, discrimination is generally a more systematic application of bias. That is, it is not actions taken by an individual toward another individual, but rather by the workplace to disenfranchise a group. A male supervisor requiring that a subordinate female perform sexual acts in order to receive a raise is committing harassment. A female supervisor who constantly gives male subordinates terrible work shifts based upon her dislike of men is committing discrimination.
If you are a victim of either harassment or discrimination within the workplace in California, you have options. However, it is important to understand the difference between the two when working in a legal context.
This article is intended to explain the difference between discrimination and harassment in California. It is not intended to be legal advice.