Is My Employer Responsible If I Am Sexually Harassed in the Workplace?
Employees in the state of Arizona are protected against workplace sexual harassment by both Arizona and federal law. These rights are not in question, and steps must be taken to protect those legal rights when workplace sexual harassment occurs.That said, an employer does not bear legal responsibility for all forms of sexual harassment that may occur in the workplace. Determining whether an employer is legally responsible for workplace sexual harassment hinges on a close analysis of the facts and legal complexities involved.
If you are unsure whether an employer can be held responsible for sexual harassment or are unsure of the scope of your legal rights, discuss your sexual harassment claim in greater detail with an Arizona employment lawyer at Tyler Allen Law Firm.
Sexual Harassment by a Boss or Manager
If an employee was harassed by a manager, boss or similar position of power and influence within the company, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act provides legal protections for Arizona employees. Harassers who wield the influence and ability to significantly affect the employee's status at the company and commit harassment based on a victim's sex or sexuality can lead to vicarious legal liability for the employer. The United States Supreme Court has also been clear on this point, making it likely that the company can be held responsible for a manager or boss who sexually harasses an employee.
However, it must be noted that the Supreme Court has limited employer liability for supervisory sexual harassment in an influential Supreme Court case. In the 2013 Supreme Court decision of Vance v. Ball State University , 133 S.Ct. 2434, the Court limited employer liability in a harassment case involving a supervisory employee.
As such, the Court held that an employer bears legal responsibility for a supervisor's sexual harassment "only if" the supervisor in question commits the unlawful act can take meaningful employment actions against the victim. Namely, the supervisor must be able to do the following:
Hire and/or fire employees
Promote and/or demote employees
Sexual Harassment by a Co-Worker
In general, employers do not bear legal responsibility for sexual harassment by a co-worker. Employers typically have legal responsibility for the actions of an employee that are related to their job description, but, of course, unlawful sexual harassment is not in any lawful job description.
This does not mean, however, that an employer cannot still be legally responsible after sexual harassment by a co-worker takes place. Indeed, an employer may respond negligently or engage in other unlawful behavior after a sexual harassment victim properly notifies a supervisor or the HR department that sexual harassment took place.
If a victim provides a formal complaint in writing, the employer will then have a chance to respond to the complaint and address the allegations. The response should be carefully documented, and victims of sexual harassment are well-advised to gather evidence that supports a finding of sexual harassment.
If it can be proven that a co-worker's sexual harassment led to a hostile work environment that was not adequately resolved by the employer, then an Arizona employer may also bear legal liability for a co-worker's sexual harassment as well.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, an Arizona employment lawyer will protect your rights that are clearly outlined under Title VII and Arizona law. You have the right to be free of a hostile work environment, and our team of Arizona employment attorneys at Tyler Allen Law Firm will stand up for your legal rights.
Contact us online to discuss filing a sexual harassment claim against a legally liable employer with an Arizona employment lawyer today.