Unfortunately, sexual harassment still occurs in the workplace. This harassment may occur in the form of inappropriate comments, requests for sexual favors, inappropriate touching, and other degrading acts on the basis of sex.
In order for harassment to be actionable, the harassment must be severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of employment. The harassment must create an abusive working environment. Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986). Courts may consider the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, its severity, whether the conduct is physically threatening or humiliating, and whether the harassment interferes with the employee’s work performance.
Employees must also understand when their employers/companies are liable for harassment. Employers are generally liable when a supervisor harasses an employee, and the harassment also involves a “tangible employment action.” Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998). When no such action has occurred, employees must generally establish that they took advantage of the employer’s sexual harassment policy, and that the employer failed to correct the behavior.
Employees, who feel they are harassed, should contact an employment attorney of their choice. Employees need to understand how to progress in these tough situations. An experienced employment attorney can help employees understand the consequences of their actions and explain the claims potentially available.
Matt Miller-Novak, Esq.
Godbey & Associates