Workplace Harassment Defenses
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What Is Workplace Harassment?
Workplace harassment occurs when an employer or a co-worker commits unwanted or offensive behavior towards another co-worker. Harassment can occur between workers on the same level, or between a supervisor and a person that they are in charge of. There are two basic types of workplace harassment: hostile work environment and sexual harassment.
Hostile work environment harassment occurs when there is a persistent atmosphere of inappropriate behavior, inappropriate jokes, offensive language, or similar conduct in the office. Sexual harassment occurs when there are unwanted sexual advancements or requests being made in the workplace. It can also include cases where a supervisor’s requests sexual favors in return for benefits or work advancements.
What Are Some Workplace Harassment Defenses?
In order to be found liable for workplace harassment, an employer or supervisor generally needs to have knowledge of the harassment conditions, and then fail to take steps to correct the behavior. This can vary by jurisdiction and according to state law. Some common workplace harassment defenses include:
- A lack of evidence to support the harassment claim
- The harassment claim is based on hearsay
- The harassment claim is false
- The employer or supervisor used reasonable care to prevent or promptly corrected the harassment behavior in the workplace
- The employee failed to utilize corrective measures taken by the employer
- The person being sued does not have direct authority or control over the worker accused of harassing the plaintiff
Other defenses may be available depending on state laws as well as the actual facts involved in each case.
How Can Workplace Harassment Legal Issues Be Avoided?
Workplace harassment lawsuits can be very costly and time-consuming for a business. It is generally in the employer’s best interests to avoid harassment claims in the first place. Avoiding harassment can be possible through:
- Conducting periodic reviews of company policies and handbooks to ensure that they are in accordance with state and federal anti-harassment laws
- Hiring professionals to provide advice and input for the company
- Performing regular inquiries and reviews of employee and supervisor conduct
- Paying attention to all employee complaints and requests
- Enforcing company harassment policies promptly
Workplace harassment can result in various legal consequences, such as a damages award or a termination of the employer/supervisor who is liable. Some harassment claims may be filed as a class action suit, which might lead to further legal proceedings.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Workplace Harassment Defenses?
Workplace harassment is a serious legal issue, and defenses for those claims can be quite complex. You may need to hire an employment lawyer in your area for help with any type of harassment claim. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice, guidance, and research for your claim. Also, if you need to file a lawsuit or defend a claim in court, your attorney can be on hand to provide you with representation in court.
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Last Modified: 06-04-2015 02:50 PM PDT
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