harassment must be severe or pervasive to create a hostile,
abusive, or offensive working environment for which an employer
may be liable. In other words, an isolated comment may not
be sufficient to support a claim of sexual harassment.
Generally, repeated conduct is required to prove a hostile
work environment, which can include jokes, suggestive comments,
physical interference with movement, sexual advances, sexual
comments, sexual touching, and pornographic material in the
workplace. It does not matter whether your supervisor or co-worker
intended the conduct to be harassing. The conduct is
evaluated from the perspective of the victim and the conduct
must be unwelcomed. An important aspect in the prevention
of sexual harassment in the workplace is a strong sexual harassment
policy that has been provided to and discussed with all employees.
Most companies have sexual harassment policies. This
policy should contain the procedures for reporting sexual
harassment, including the person to whom the harassment should
be reported. This is usually the human resources manager.
We have had many clients who were concerned about the ramifications of reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. As employees, they were concerned about retaliation from their supervisors and co-employees, about losing their job, and whether they would be believed by their employers. We are experienced in this area and know how to deal with these concerns. The most important first step in this process is reporting the sexual harassment to your employer and we can help you through this process. Many companies now have sexual harassment policies that require you to report the sexual harassment as soon as it occurs. When you make a complaint of sexual harassment, always remember to put your complaint in writing, date your complaint, sign it, and keep a copy. By doing so, it will be difficult for your employer to deny that it had notice of your complaint. This is critical because in many cases for your employer to be liable, you must show that your employer knew or should have known of the harassment and then failed to take prompt and appropriate remedial action to stop the harassment. An employer is responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent harassment in the workplace, and to take effective steps to remedy harassment if it occurs. If an employer can show that it complied with these requirements, then it may not be liable for the sexual harassment. When a complaint is made, an employer is not required to terminate the offending harasser, but only to take prompt and appropriate remedial action to stop the harassment. However, prompt and appropriate remedial action may include termination depending on the circumstances of your case. Once you have reported the harassment, an employer is prohibited from retaliating against you because of your complaint. If this occurs, you may have an additional claim against your employer for retaliation under the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Please check to see if your employer has a sexual harassment policy and then call us to discuss your rights.
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