Unacceptable Workplace Behaviors

All workers are subject to rules in the workplace.
All workers are subject to rules in the workplace. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Depending on the job, the list of unacceptable behaviors in which employees could engage is endless. What might be completely unacceptable at one workplace could be perfectly suitable behavior in other circumstances. However, the federal Department of Labor and the Department of Justice list some workplace behaviors that are unacceptable, anytime, anywhere.

Sexual Harassment

There are specific standards regarding the conduct between equal coworkers, as well as for supervisory and executive staff and their subordinates, regarding sexual harassment. These rules are in effect whether the harassment is by a male toward a female, a female toward a male, or even between people of the same sex. Not only can violations of these standards be a cause for dismissal, but both the perpetrator and the company he works for may face civil lawsuits.


Strict rules against workplace discrimination for reasons relating to race, gender, religion and sexual orientation are the law of the land. Discrimination can occur when hiring new workers, when considering promotions, and when making day-to-day job assignments. A person proven to be discriminatory or to have discriminated in the past can be fired and subject to civil penalties. If it is proven that discrimination is a widespread company policy, legal action may include both the employee and the employer.

OSHA Regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Act, passed in 1970 and administered by the Department of Labor, affects almost every working person to one degree or another. Office workers may only be affected by a few OSHA standards while a worker in an industrial plant may deal with dozens of standards each day. Bypassing or ignoring these standards is serious for the safety of the individual and possibly for other workers nearby. OSHA inspectors regularly and randomly inspect workplaces and businesses. Individual workers found neglecting OSHA regulations face reprimand or dismissal. Companies found non-compliant may face fines or other consequences until the problems are remedied.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1991 to prevent and mitigate workplace discrimination against workers with disabilities. The act is administered by the Department of Justice, but many other federal agencies are charged with oversight of one or more of its provisions, including the Departments of Transportation, Housing, Education, Agriculture, Labor, Health and Interior. Many of the standards are set to ensure a myriad of physical and structural conditions are met, but other standards address discriminating against people with disabilities. ADA inspectors regularly and randomly inspect workplaces and businesses, and employees found non-compliant or discriminating against individuals with disabilities may face fines or other consequences.

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