Offensive words or conduct directed at an employee because of his or her gender may create a hostile workplace environment although the words and conduct are not sexual in nature. Sexual harassment need not be motivated by sexual desire or sexual gratification. Gender based harassment may still be illegal even if the harassment did not involve “sexual” conduct. Abusive language or behavior of many kinds, not only sexual innuendo or gender-related language, can create a valid claim for hostile work environment if motivated by gender bias.
Also, the fact that a supervisor consistently abuses men and women alike does not establish a defense to a claim of hostile environment sexual harassment where the supervisor's abuse of males does not relate to their gender, whereas his abuse of females (calling them sexually derogatory names) involves the fact they are females.
Not only is sexual harassment illegal. The law also prohibits:
- Racial harassment
- Religious harassment
- Age-based harassment
- Harassment based on disability
- Harassment based on ethnicity or national origin