Employer Liability for Sexual Harassment
When Is an Employer Liable for Sexual Harassment?
An employer's liability for sexual harassment depends on the harasser's position in the company or workplace, and the kind of sexual harassment being alleged. So, even if you can prove that you experienced sexual harassment, it is possible that your employer may not be liable.
- Employer or company officials who may be treated as the employer's proxy (i.e., a company's president): Since such individuals are the employer for most purposes, they are directly liable for any harassment they personally commit.
- Immediate supervisors: Since such individuals are not high enough to be the employer's proxy, but are given direct authority over the victim, the employer is generally strictly liable for harassment committed by immediate supervisors.
- Quid pro quo harassment: The employer is strictly liable only if there is proof the immediate supervisor invoked and improperly used actual authority, and there are fewer supervisors than employees, making them easier to train and monitor.
- Hostile work environment: The employer is strictly liable but may attempt to establish as an affirmative defense that it took reasonable care to prevent or promptly correct harassing behavior and the employee unreasonably failed to use your anti-discrimination policy, or to otherwise avoid or reduce any harm done.
- Co-workers, other supervisors and customers: Since these individuals are not the employer's proxies and do not have direct authority over the victim, it is unlikely the employer will be held liable for harassment committed by them.
- Hostile work environment: If an employer knew or should have known that such individuals were sexually harassing employees and the employer failed to take action or reasonably act on their knowledge or any complaints, they may be liable for their negligence.
Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with Sexual Harassment Cases?
Employment discrimination claims are complicated because procedural laws vary depending on where and when you file your claim. An employment lawyer can help you determine if you have a sexual harassment case, if your employer can be held liable and also help you with EEOC and FEPA filing deadlines. Also, because agencies will not get to your claim immediately, a lawyer can help you investigate and pursue alternative remedies. If you are being sued for employment discrimination, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.
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Last Modified: 01-16-2014 02:29 PM PST
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