April 22, 2024

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Company Liability: Hostile Sexual Harassment Environment

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, and sex.

Federal sexual harassment law is broken into two categories: Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Sexual Environment. This article looks at Hostile Environment.

A Hostile Environment occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct ruins an employee’s work environment.

When this occurs the behavior or its effect unreasonably interferes with work performance and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment either at work or at company-sponsored events.

The behavior must be unwelcome and in most cases repeated.

Types of harassment includes:

  • sexually explicit jokes, pinups, or graffiti
  • vulgar statements and sounds
  • abusive language
  • indirect sexual comments
  • overt sexual conduct

It is important to note that with this type of harassment, it doesn’t matter whether the behavior was intended to be harassing or flattering. The harassment is always defined by the victim. If the victim finds the behavior unwelcome, regardless of the intent, then it is harassment.

The courts have held employers liable in cases that involved supervisors, other employees, and/or customers or vendors.

Court Case

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a settlement with London International Group, LLC (LIG) in a lawsuit charging the Eufaula-based plant, which manufactures condoms, with subjecting a class of employees to a hostile work environment in which they have been subjected to numerous racially and sexually derogatory cartoons and comments since 1995.

Award: $625,000 in monetary damages

For more on other types of Sexual Harassment, read about Sexual Favoritism or Sexual Harassment by Non-Employees.

Protect your business from this type of harassment. Make sure your employees are well-trained in harassment and discrimination prevention and awareness.