In the Work Place

Discrimination and harassment in the workplace can be overt, such as racial slurs, retaliation in the form of demotions or termination, or unwelcome touching. Or they can be subtle, such as raises given only to white employees, or the expectation that women will perform secretarial or cleaning duties.

Age, race, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, disabilities, or other protected categories should never be the topic of unwelcome conversation or jokes, or cause for different treatment in any advocacy organization. (Please note that protected categories vary by state. Consult your local state agency for more information about what is considered protected status in your state.)

Interactions at work should be respectful and fair. If you fear interacting with a colleague because they might make sexist or racist jokes or touch you without your permission, you aren't being treated with respect. If you are consistently passed over for promotions without a reasonable explanation, or if you are ignored during meetings, you aren't being treated fairly.

As an employee or volunteer, you should never fear a co-worker or supervisor. You shouldn't have to rebuff sexual advances or racist insults. You shouldn't fear retaliation for choosing not to “play along” with sexism, racism, or uninvited and unwanted sexual advances.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The EEOC is a recommended resource that provides information, can help determine if you have a case, and may take on a case for you. Please note that volunteers and unpaid interns are often not covered by the EEOC, however it can still be worth reaching out.


"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.

The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits."



Discrimination, harassment, and retaliation

The are 12 types of discrimination listed by the EEOC that federal laws protect against, one of which is harassment:

Age, Disability, Equal Pay/Compensation, Genetic Information, Harassment, National Origin, Pregnancy, Race/Color, Religion, Retaliation, Sex, Sexual Harassment.

Because of state-specific laws regarding discrimination, it's important to check resources in the state where you reside or where your organization is headquartered.

Many people know that laws exist to protect employees from discrimination and harassment, but it’s important to understand that these laws also protect against retaliation. Employers shouldn’t be able to punish employees for filing complaints about discrimination or harassment, or for participating in workplace investigations. This includes protection against retaliation in the form of firing and demotion, or denying a raise, transfer to a desirable position, training, or mentoring. To learn more, see:

Additional Resources

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN):

David Schwimmer:

To learn more about speaking out and taking steps against harassment and discrimination, see What To Do and Get Help.