Overview: In addition to sexual harassment in the workplace, federal law as well as most state law prohibits harassment against an individual based on his or her membership in a protected class. Therefore, individuals are protected from harassment based on race, national origin, religion, etc. Harassment may take the form of using insulting epithets, slurs or negative stereotypes; making rude and offensive jokes; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts; or written and graphic material such as cartoons that insult a particular individual or group based on that individual's or group's protected class.
To eliminate workplace harassment, employers should have a policy in place that strictly prohibits harassing behavior of any kind. All employees and supervisors should be provided with training on the policy. Further, employers should designate a multichannel reporting system to allow employees to bring workplace harassment complaints to the employer's attention. Further, employers should immediately respond to any complaints of harassment by investigating the matter and taking corrective action.
Trends: The EEOC has identified preventing harassment through systemic enforcement as well as targeted outreach and education efforts as one of its priorities in the most recent Strategic Enforcement plan. As such. there a significant number of harassment lawsuits being brought by the EEOC as well as individuals based on race, age, religion etc. As the workplace becomes more diverse, this has led to an increase in harassment suits of all kinds.
In Vance v. Ball State University, 570 U.S. (2013), the Supreme Court issued a critical decision which makes it more difficult for employees to prove that an employer is vicariously liable for a supervisor’s discriminatory or harassing conduct. Specifically, the Court held that a supervisor must be someone with the direct power and authority to take tangible employment actions against an employee. This issue is of primary importance when determining whether an employer is vicariously liable for a supervisor's actions in cases of harassment. Under the current law, if the harasser is a supervisor, the employer is automatically vicariously liable for the supervisor's actions. If the harasser is not a supervisor, the plaintiff must prove that the employer was negligent and that the employer knew or should have known of the harassment in order to be liable. This is a much higher burden to meet.
Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
California's sexual harassment prevention training requirements will soon be enhanced with an abusive conduct component.
This chart covers private employer requirements by state for sexual harassment training and related record retention or notice communications. However, employers in all states should consider providing sexual harassment training in order to minimize liability risks due to a supervisor's inappropriate comments or because of a supervisor's failure to adequately address a harassment incident.
California employers must cover abusive conduct in their supervisor harassment prevention training programs effective January 1, 2015, under a state law enacted last week.
Illinois and California have passed laws extending protection from harassment and discrimination to unpaid interns.
In-depth review of the spectrum of California employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to training and development.
Tennessee is the first state to pass an antibullying law aimed at addressing abusive workplace conduct.
Tennessee recently became the first state to enact antibullying legislation that specifically addresses harassing and abusive workplace conduct. Despite the fact that bullying has become increasingly prevalent in the workplace and a number of states have introduced similar legislation, no other state has yet enacted a law addressing this.
This briefing for supervisors examines the law and best practices for understanding issues with respect to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the workplace, including frequently used terms, preventing and responding to incidents of harassment and discrimination, and handling sensitive issues such as dress codes, restrooms and transitioning employees.
HR guidance on preventing and responding to workplace harassment, including instituting a policy, providing training to employees and supervisors, and immediately investigating harassment complaints.