Hostile Work Environment Based on Sex - Sexual Harassment

Legal Representation for Sexual Harassment Matters in Atlanta

Sexual harassment that rises to the level of a hostile work environment is illegal under federal law. A hostile work environment can extend beyond the employee who is the subject of harassment and affect other employees or even the entire company. The sexual harassment attorneys at Mays & Kerr know the discrimination and harassment laws that govern Atlanta workplaces. We have the skills and experience to assist you if you have been affected by a hostile work environment where sexual harassment is an issue.

Hostile Work Environment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sex that relates to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Discrimination includes harassment, which is unwelcome conduct based on a person’s sex. Minor jokes or offhand comments are generally not unlawful harassment. Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is so severe or pervasive that it leads to an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work environment. Harassment is also unlawful when the employee’s continued employment is conditioned on enduring the offensive conduct.

When harassment creates a hostile or offensive work environment, other employees also may be affected by the offensive conduct. Any employee affected by the conduct may be entitled to file a charge or pursue a claim, even if that employee is not the direct subject of the harassment.

Harassment

Sexual harassment can take many forms and may be perpetrated by a variety of people. The offensive conduct does not have to come from a supervisor. It can be committed by a supervisor, a co-worker, a vendor, or even a customer. Sexual harassment does not have to be committed by a person of the opposite sex. A person can be sexually harassed by a member of the same sex. Furthermore, sexual harassment does not have to involve sexual conduct. Harassment based on sex that does not include sexually suggestive conduct is also prohibited.

Employer Liability

Generally, employers are strictly liable for sexual harassment committed by supervisors or managers that results in an adverse employment action. In a hostile work environment claim involving a manager or supervisor, the employer may have an affirmative defense. To make this defense, the employer must show that it used reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing behavior and that the employee negligently or unreasonably failed to take advantage of that opportunity or otherwise avoid harm. Courts have held that an employer is not automatically entitled to an affirmative defense just because there is a policy in place that would allow the plaintiff to report the harassment to someone other than the harasser. The facts and circumstances of the particular case must be analyzed to determine if the plaintiff may have had legitimate reasons not to follow the procedure.

In a claim involving harassment by a non-supervisory co-worker or a non-employee, the employer may be liable if it knew or should have known about the harassing behavior and failed to take appropriate and timely action to prevent or correct it. 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11 specifically provides that employers may be liable for harassment by non-employees under those circumstances.

Remedies

Remedies available in a sexual harassment hostile workplace case vary depending on the facts of the case. Court orders or settlements arising from such claims may include injunctions, reinstatement, back pay, front pay, and compensatory or punitive damages.

Consult a Knowledgeable Employment Lawyer

The sexual harassment lawyers at Mays & Kerr have handled a wide variety of employment law cases in the Atlanta metro area. If you have a concern involving a hostile work environment or sexual harassment in Georgia, we can advise you regarding your legal rights and obligations. Call us at 1-877-986-5529 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.