Harassment & Hostile Work Environment

Harassment as Unlawful Employment Discrimination

Federal and Colorado law prohibit harassment in employment.

Harassment in employment is unlawful when the objectionable conduct is because of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, religion, disability, or age. Unlawful sex harassment includes same-sex harassment.

Federal and Colorado law prohibit harassment in employment.

Harassment in employment is unlawful when the objectionable conduct is because of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, religion, disability, or age. Unlawful sex harassment includes same-sex harassment.

Private sector employees, serving in any position in the supervisory chain of command, have the right to be from unlawful employment discrimination, in the form of harassment or the creation of a hostile work environment.

Murray Law welcomes the opportunity to provide experienced and dedicated counsel and representation to clients facing the issue of harassment in the workplace. Steven Murray has successfully represented employees asserting unlawful harassment claims in lawsuits before United States District Courts, including the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Steven has represented employees, applicants, and former employees in employment discrimination actions before the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, including representing prevailing clients in jury trials.

Retaliatory harassment is unlawful. Federal and Colorado law prohibit retaliatory harassment against an individual because the person opposed any unlawful practice under the applicable law, i.e. the individual opposed race discrimination, or the individual made a charge, assisted, testified or participated in any investigation, litigation, or proceeding under the law.

Harassment-Hostile Work Environment Claim

Harassment claims consider the totality of facts. In general, a viable harassment claim includes:

  • (1) unwelcome and offensive conduct;

  • (2) the nature of the conduct is based on a protected class or trait, i.e. racially offensive conduct, or conduct directed against a person because of the person’s protected status, i.e. the individual was targeted because of her or his race; and

  • (3) the conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms or conditions of employment by creating a hostile, abusive, or intimidating working environment.

Employer Liability

An employer is liable when a supervisor engages in harassment resulting in a tangible employment action against the individual in issue, i.e. a discharge. In the event the supervisor’s harassment of an employee results in a tangible employment action against an employee, the employer is strictly liable for the supervisor’s conduct, meaning, the law does not provide the employer with a defense to this harassment claim. 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.

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.

An employer is liable for 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.

The precise remedies available to a person asserting a claim for unlawful harassment vary depending on several factors, including but not limited to, the law under which the claim is asserted, the precise conduct in issue, the employment positions held by the harasser and the victim, the employer’s policies, the responses of the victim and the employer to the harassment, and the size of the employer.

In the event the harassment is by a supervisor and the harassment results in a tangible employment action, i.e. a discharge, the potential remedies available to the victim and the potential liabilities to the employer include: (1) the employee’s lost wages and benefits; (2) an award of compensatory and punitive damages to the employee; (3) an order requiring the reinstatement of discharged employee or, in lieu of reinstatement, an award of front pay to the employee; and (4) an award of attorney fees and costs to the prevailing employee.

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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