When Can An Employer Be Held Liable For Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment?

Both federal and state law prohibit employers from subjecting employees to sexual harassment by creation of hostile work environments. To state a case for sexual harassment based on hostile or offensive work environments, a plaintiff must show that (1) he or she was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, conduct or comments, (2) the harassment complained of was based on sex, and (3) the harassment was so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Importantly, so long as the work environment would reasonably be perceived, and is perceived, as hostile or abusive, a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate any psychological harm to prevail on his or her claim.

A hostile work environment may be created not only by the inappropriate conduct of supervisors, but also by the conduct of coworkers or nonemployees, in which case the plaintiff must demonstrate that the employer failed to take prompt remedial action despite having known or having should have known of the harassment. Although sexually harassing conduct is often motivated by sexual desire (e.g., sexual advances or comments, unwanted touching, persistent leering, etc.), actionable conduct may include discrimination based solely because of one’s sex (e.g., attacking an employee’s sexual identity, hostile acts towards only women, etc.).

As for whether the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to amount to a claim, many factors can be considered by the jury, including, the severity of the harassment, the frequency of the conduct, whether the harassment unreasonably interfered with one’s job performance, the extent of harm inflicted, and the extent to which the work environment was altered by the conduct.

If you have been subjected to, or are being subjected to, a hostile work environment, give us a call at (213) 468-8840. We’re here to FIGHT FOR YOUR RECOVERY.

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