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Common Employment Law Myths

law-myths

1. Anytime my employer subjects me to a hostile work environment, I'm being treated illegally by my company.

The law does make illegal every hostile work environment. The law requires the hostile work environment to be based on a protected trait (e.g., race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information). Thus, if your employer is subjecting you to a hostile work environment based on the protected traits described above, it may be illegal.

2. I work in Arizona, which is an at-will state, so employment laws don't protect me.

At-will employees are protected by federal or state discrimination laws.

3. I must use "magic words" to assert my rights to my employer.

There's no requirement that an employee uses "magic words" when requesting accommodations or complaining about harassment. In requesting an accommodation for a disability, an employee need only make it clear that they need an accommodation for their disability, regardless of the words used. Likewise, an employee does not have to use any special words to inform management or HR that they feel discriminated against or harassed. All that is required is that an employee asserts enough facts to let the company know that they are being harassed because of a protected status (e.g., race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information). Under either circumstance, the employer has the duty to engage with the employee.

4. I must go to HR, not just my manager, about complaints of harassment.

While it is important to follow the complaint procedures set forth in the employee handbook, a complaint to management is generally enough to require the employer to respond. Once the company is put on notice of harassment, the company has a duty to stop the harassment.

5. My manager is harassing me or discriminating against me based on my race (or national origin, sex, or age), but my harasser is the same race as me, so I don't have a case.

It's possible that members of the same protected class discriminate against each other. Employment law focuses on the individual's circumstances rather than the group as a whole.
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The information provided is informational only, does not constitute legal advice, and will not create an attorney-client or attorney-prospective client relationship. Christopher R. Houk is licensed to practice law in Arizona. © 2020

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