Discrimination and harassment in the workplace are both issues that people deal with every day. They are also both illegal. There are many federal and state laws addressing both subjects and outlining exactly what they are and giving guidance on how to identify them. However, many people may still be unclear what the difference is between the two concepts.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, harassment is a type of discrimination. So, they are the same in some aspects. However, discrimination covers a lot more ground than harassment. Discrimination is applicable in situations where you may not be able to prove someone said or did something directly to you to show his or her bias due to a protected trait. The definition of harassment is more limited.
Harassment is when someone makes another person feel uncomfortable due to words or actions. It must occur enough times to create a hostile work environment. A one-time comment or action does not qualify as harassment. It needs to be frequent and severe enough to cause discomfort.
Harassment may fall into different discrimination categories, giving you protection under the different discrimination laws. For example, someone suffering harassment due to his or her gender would have protection under gender discrimination laws at the state and federal levels.
California’s discrimination laws are quite extensive. They ban any type of mistreatment or harassment for gender identity or expression, genetic information, military or veteran status, race, ancestry, physical or mental disability, marital status, religion, sex, medical condition, gender, national origin, age over 40, sexual orientation and color.