Traliant Resources


Equal Employment Opportunity


Please review the information below and then return to the workplace harassment prevention course tab. 

Harassment and discrimination based on a protected characteristic are prohibited under both federal and state law.  The federal government and most state governments have agencies that help employers and employees understand these legal requirements and ensure compliance with the laws.

Protected Characteristics

Harassment or discrimination based on any protected characteristic set forth below is prohibited in Washington.


  • race 

  • color

  • national origin

  • sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity)

  • gender expression

  • disability

  • genetic information (including family medical history)

  • religion

  • age (40 and older)


  • race (including traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as afros, locks, braids, or twists)

  • color

  • national origin (including ancestry)

  • sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions)

  • gender identity or expression

  • sexual orientation (including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity)

  • age (40 or older)

  • creed/religion (including religious observance, practice, and belief)

  • sensory, mental or physical disability (including use of trained dog guide or service animal)

  • genetic information

  • marital status

  • status as member of military or honorably discharged veteran

  • citizenship or immigration status

Important Notes

In addition to the general protected characteristics listed above, some federal, state, and/or local laws also prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of other protected statuses in certain contexts, such as:

  • citizenship status or work authorization status,

  • emergency volunteer status,

  • family relationship with a co-worker, and/or

  • status based on information contained in criminal, background, or credit reports, or being subject to wage garnishments.


Likewise, some federal, state, and/or local laws prohibit discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation for exercising certain legal rights such as:

  • participating in collective bargaining or union activities,

  • serving as a whistleblower pursuant to whistleblower laws,

  • filing a worker’s compensation or unemployment claim,

  • taking protected time off or protected leave,

  • engaging in certain off-duty activities.

Finally, under federal law and some state and/or local laws, employers may not limit or prohibit employees from using any languages in the workplace unless there is a business necessity for the restriction.

Note also that some federal, state, and/or local laws provide additional, separate standards and remedies for certain prohibited conduct, such as laws addressing equal pay without regard to sex or other protected category or specifically addressing sexual harassment prevention measures.

Applicable Laws


The primary federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination include Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, The Age Discrimination in Employment ActThe Americans With Disabilities ActThe Equal Pay ActThe Uniformed Services and Employment and Reemployment ActThe Immigration and Nationality Act, and The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII protects individuals from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (U.S. June 15, 2020).


The primary state law that prohibits employment discrimination, including harassment, is the Washington State Law Against Discrimination.

Washington Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome language or conduct of a sexual nature, or language or conduct that is because of sex, when:

  • Such language or conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment (this can happen even if the complaining party is not the intended target of the sexual harassment);

  • Such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; or,

  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, derogatory comments, jokes, or statements; sexual advances; sexually explicit language or stories; or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person even when the harassment is not sexual in nature, but rather is because of the person’s gender.  Sexual harassment can include language or conduct against a person of the same sex as the harasser.

SourceWashington Human Rights Commission.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Examples of language and conduct that is considered prohibited harassment include:

  • Physical conduct including but not limited to: sexual assault; grabbing, poking, pressing or intentionally brushing up against another person’s body; blocking someone’s movement or invading their space; touching someone’s breast, buttocks, or between their legs; or any other unwanted and intentional physical contact.

  • Visual conduct including but not limited to: leering; sexual gestures; displaying of sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, posters, screen-savers, or websites.

  • Verbal conduct including but not limited to: sexually derogatory comments, epithets, slurs and jokes; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; graphic verbal comments about an individual’s body; derogatory comments related to gender or stereotypical gender roles; subtle or obvious pressure for unwelcome sexual activities; sexually suggestive or obscene letters, notes, emails, or texts; conversations, stories, comments or jokes about a person’s sexuality or sexual experience; unwelcome questions about a person’s sexuality or gender identity or expression.

  • Asking a co-worker on a date multiple times if the request was unwelcome;

  • Verbal abuse or joking concerning a person’s gender characteristics such as vocal pitch, facial hair or the size or shape of a person’s body.

  • Offering an employment benefit (such as a raise, bonus, promotion, assistance with one’s career or better working conditions) in exchange for sexual favors, or threatening an employment detriment (such as termination, demotion, worse working conditions, or disciplinary action) when a person refuses to engage in sexual activity.

  • Sending sexually related, sexually derogatory, or sexually suggestive text messages, videos or messages via social media.

  • Physical or verbal abuse concerning an individual’s gender or the perception of the individual’s gender.

  • Making or threatening retaliatory action after receiving a negative response to sexual advances.

  • Hostile actions taken against an individual because of that individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or the status of being transgender, such as:

    • Interfering with, destroying or damaging a person’s work, workstation, tools or equipment, or other interference with the individual’s ability to perform the job;

    • Ignoring or ostracizing them;

    • Yelling or name-calling.

  • Degrading comments in the form of sex stereotyping, which occurs when conduct or personality traits are considered inappropriate simply because they may not conform to other people’s ideas or perceptions about how persons of a specific sex should act or look.

Washington Advocacy Groups Focused on Preventing Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

The Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP) 

List of Community Sexual Assault Prevention & Support Groups by County  

You can also contact WCSAP for help and information:

T: (360) 754-7583

TTY: (360) 709-0305


Washington State Department of Commerce Crime Victim Resource Guide


24/7 Hotline:  800.656.HOPE (800.656.4673)



When you call the hotline, you’ll be routed to a local RAINN affiliate organization based on the first six digits of your phone number. Cell phone callers have the option to enter the ZIP code of their current location to more accurately locate the nearest sexual assault service provider.

Retaliation Prohibited

Employer retaliation against an employee who files a discrimination or harassment complaint or is involved in the complaint process is unlawful.

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only.
It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.