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Hostile Workplace Harassment – Employers Are Liable

The Supreme Court has weighed in on Hostile Workplace Harassment with their landmark decision on Burlington Industries. Prior to this decision employees who were harassed had to prove a financial or job-related harm that was caused by the harassment. This made the hurdle to prove harassment a high one. With the new decision employers are now liable for the hostile environment the employee endured. Continue reading this to find out more about hostile workplace and employees liability.

Plaintiffs in Ellerth v. Burlington threatened and harassed by her boss for more than a year, but did not suffer financial or jobs related loss. In fact, she was actually promoted by the boss. Burlington had argued that because she had not suffered a job-related loss that they were not liable. The court ruled 7-2 in Ms. Ellerth’s favor. She was allowed to recover damages for Hostile Workplace Harassment.

Changes in sexual harassment are very important for employers to address. No longer can they rely on defending themselves with the same defense as Burlington. If the supervisor threatens to not to promote an employee unless he receives sexual favors and doesn’t follow through, the employer is still liable for making the workplace hostile for that employee.

Employers now need to train their employees on this aspect of harassment. Hostile Workplace Harassment can be unwanted jokes, touching, leering, threats or anything else that makes the workplace hostile for that employee. The behavior does not even have to be directed at the employee who files the claim. Employees can feel the environment is hostile by overhearing and working within the environment. Jokes, threats and other behavior have no place in the workplace and training employees will keep the company out of court and make the workplace a more productive one.