Harassment & Hostile Work Environment

Harassment as Unlawful Employment Discrimination

Workplace harassment is unlawful employment discrimination when the objectionable conduct is because of a protected trait or class, i.e. sex, race, religion.

Murray Law provides experienced counsel and representation to clients facing the issue of workplace harassment. This practice represents:

  • Employees subjected to harassment.
  • Individuals alleged to have engaged in harassment.
  • Employers confronting the issue of harassment, and/or charges of harassment.
  • Parties asserting harassment claims or defenses in government agency proceedings and/or civil actions in federal or state court.
Overview

Discriminatory harassment is a serious issue for private sector employees and employers.

The reaction of every employee/victim of harassment is unique. An employee may suffer a myriad of serious professional and personal problems caused by the objectionable conduct, i.e. the harassment may cause an employee to: (1) suffer emotional and/or physical distress, experienced in and outside of work; (2) become less productive at work; and (3) seek new employment because of the intolerable and hostile work environment.

An employer, in response to a harassment complaint, is faced with several issues. A response may involve:

  • A thorough investigation of the charge
  • Addressing the harm suffered by the aggrieved employee
  • Discipline/discharge of the harasser(s)
  • Action to address employee morale
  • Revising polices/practices and training to prevent reoccurrence of harassment
  • Expending resources to respond to charges of harassment filed with government agencies, i.e. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] or the Colorado Civil Rights Division [CCRD], and to investigations by the EEOC or CCRD.
  • Defending a lawsuit filed by the aggrieved employee, thereby expending resources in defense of the claim, and facing potential liability, including financial damages.
Harassment-Hostile Work Environment Claim

Harassment claims consider the totality of facts. In general, a viable harassment claim includes: (1) unwelcome conduct; (2) conduct is based on a protected class or trait; and (3) conduct results in a tangible employment action, i.e. discharge of victim; or the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms or condition of employment by creating a hostile, abusive, or intimidating working environment.

Employer Liability
  • Supervisor Conduct & Adverse Tangible Employment Action
    An employer is liable when a supervisor engages in harassment causing the victim of the harassment to suffer a tangible employment action. Tangible employment actions include: (1) significant modifications to an employee’s status, i.e. hiring, discharge, or failure to promote; or (2) a decision resulting in a change in benefits, i.e. reduction in pay.

  • Supervisor Conduct & Hostile Work Environment
    An employer is liable when a supervisor engages in harassment creating a hostile work environment unless the employer proves the following defense: (1) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any harassing behavior of the type of harassment in issue; and (2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the employer’s preventive and corrective procedures or otherwise acted to avoid harm.

  • Co-Worker or Customer Conduct & Hostile Work Environment
    An employer is liable for a hostile work environment harassment when the objectionable conduct was taken by a co-worker or a person controlled by the employer, and the employer knew, or should have known of the hostile work environment and failed to take prompt and effective remedial action.

Conclusion

Murray Law welcomes the opportunity to provide counsel and representation to individuals and employers addressing the issue of employment discrimination. Please call Steven Murray at 720-600-6642

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