Harassment Law & Legal Definition


Harassment is governed by state laws, which vary by state, but is generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim. Harassing behavior may include, but is not limited to, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.

The following is an example of a state law dealing with harassment:

"S 240.25 Harassment in the first degree.

A person is guilty of harassment in the first degree when he or she intentionally and repeatedly harasses another person by following such person in or about a public place or places or by engaging in a course of conduct or by repeatedly committing acts which places such person in reasonable fear of physical injury. This section shall not apply to activities regulated by the national labor relations act, as amended, the railway labor act, as amended, or the federal employment labor management act, as amended.

Harassment in the first degree is a class B misdemeanor.

S 240.26 Harassment in the second degree.

A person is guilty of harassment in the second degree when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person:

  1. He or she strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects such other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same; or
  2. He or she follows a person in or about a public place or places; or
  3. He or she engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose.

Subdivisions two and three of this section shall not apply to activities regulated by the national labor relations act, as amended, the railway labor act, as amended, or the federal employment labor management act, as amended.

Harassment in the second degree is a violation.

S 240.30 Aggravated harassment in the second degree.

A person is guilty of aggravated harassment in the second degree when, with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, he or she:

  1. Either (a) communicates with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, or by telegraph, mail or any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm; or (b) causes a communication to be initiated by mechanical or electronic means or otherwise with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, or by telegraph, mail or any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm; or
  2. Makes a telephone call, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate communication; or
  3. Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise subjects another person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same because of a belief or perception regarding such person`s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct; or
  4. Commits the crime of harassment in the first degree and has previously been convicted of the crime of harassment in the first degree as defined by section 240.25 of this article within the preceding ten years.

Aggravated harassment in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

S 240.31 Aggravated harassment in the first degree.

A person is guilty of aggravated harassment in the first degree when with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, because of a belief or perception regarding such person`s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct, he or she:

  1. Damages premises primarily used for religious purposes, or acquired pursuant to section six of the religious corporation law and maintained for purposes of religious instruction, and the damage to the premises exceeds fifty dollars; or
  2. Commits the crime of aggravated harassment in the second degree in the manner proscribed by the provisions of subdivision three of section 240.30 of this article and has been previously convicted of the crime of aggravated harassment in the second degree for the commission of conduct proscribed by the provisions of subdivision three of section 240.30 or he has been previously convicted of the crime of aggravated harassment in the first degree within the preceding ten years.

Aggravated harassment in the first degree is a class E felony.

S 240.32 Aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate.

An inmate or respondent is guilty of aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate when, with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm a person in a facility whom he knows or reasonably should know to be an employee of such facility or the division of parole or the office of mental health, or a probation department, bureau or unit or a police officer, he causes or attempts to cause such employee to come into contact with blood, seminal fluid, urine or feces, by throwing, tossing or expelling such fluid or material.

For purposes of this section, "inmate" means an inmate or detainee in a correctional facility, local correctional facility or a hospital, as such term is defined in subdivision two of section four hundred of the correction law. For purposes of this section, "respondent" means a juvenile in a secure facility operated and maintained by the office of children and family services who is placed with or committed to the office of children and family services. For purposes of this section, "facility" means a correctional facility or local correctional facility, hospital, as such term is defined in subdivision two of section four hundred of the correction law, or a secure facility operated and maintained by the office of children and family services.

Aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate is a class E felony."