Harassment & Hostile Work Environment

Harassment as Unlawful Employment Discrimination

Pursuant to federal and Colorado employment law, workplace harassment is unlawful.

Harassment is unlawful employment discrimination when the conduct is based on race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, religion, disability, or age. Unlawful sexual harassment includes same-sex harassment.

Private sector and federal, state, and local government employees have the right to be free from unlawful discrimination, in the form of harassment or the creation of a hostile work environment.

Retaliatory harassment is unlawful. Murray Law welcomes the opportunity to represent private and public-sector clients confronting workplace harassment. Steven Murray has successfully represented private sector and federal, state, and local government employees asserting harassment claims in actions before United States District Courts, including the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.

Harassment-Hostile Work Environment Claim

Harassment claims consider the totality of facts. The conduct is considered cumulatively instead of in isolation. The factors to consider include, the: (1) frequency of the discriminatory conduct; (2) severity of the conduct; (3) whether the conduct is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and (4) whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee's job performance.

A harassment claim includes:

  • Unwelcome conduct;

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

  • The objectionable conduct resulted in a tangible employment action against the victim of harassment, i.e. include a significant modification to an employee’s status, i.e. discharge; or

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

An employer is liable for a supervisor’s conduct resulting in a tangible employment action against the aggrieved individual.

An employer may be held liable for a supervisor’s conduct which creates a hostile work environment unless the employer proves the available legal defenses.

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.

Remedies

The precise remedies available to a person asserting a harassment claim vary depending on several factors, including 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, and the responses of the victim and the employer to the harassment.

In the event the harassment results in a tangible employment action, i.e. a discharge, the potential remedies available to the prevailing aggrieved employee 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 legal counsel and representation to persons confronting unlawful workplace harassment, a recognized form of employment discrimination. Please call Steven Murray at 720-600-664.

Resource

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] provides guidance, explanation, and discussion concerning harassment. See https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm

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