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Danger Ahead: Employer Liability For Third-Party Harassment

On April 29, 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that employers can be liable for third-party harassment under a negligence standard. In doing so, the court joined other circuits in establishing that employers can be liable under Title VII for third parties that create a hostile work environment, provided the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt remedial action to end it.

Sex at work: test your knowledge!

How much do you really know about sexual relationships in the workplace? Take my quiz, and find out!

Fourth Circuit Holds Employer Liable for Third-Party Racial and Sexual Harassment

In its first published opinion on the topic, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently ruled in Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp. that an employer is liable for harassment by a third party when the employer knows or reasonably should have known about the harassment and fails to take prompt, remedial action reasonably calculated to end the harassment.

8 reasons your sexual harassment investigation is better than the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill investigation

Many, many years ago, as an associate, I got to help defend the worst harassment investigation of my career. The entire investigation went essentially like this:

Sexual Harassment: An Expensive Proposition

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that sexual harassment claims continue to be a serious issue, with 7,256 new charges filed in FY 2013. Although that number has decreased in recent years, the awards in sexual harassment lawsuits continue to climb.

Obama or Clinton? Avoiding the Potential Disasters of Office Romance

An office romance 25 years ago worked out well for President Barack Obama (who met his wife, Michelle, while they were both working at a Chicago law firm) President Bill Clinton’s history of workplace relationships was a different story. When workplace relationships don’t work out, it isn’t only the unhappy couple that ends up suffering the consequences. Employers often must manage a welter of negative workplace effects from employee romances—sometimes even when the relationships are successful. So what should an employer do to avoid the potential fallout from office relationships and how can companies avoid Valentine’s Day disasters?

Who made this harassment "severe or pervasive"? The horse, of course

If Joe tells co-worker Mary a dirty joke, Joe is probably in violation of the employer's no-harassment policy, right? And he risks being disciplined, or even fired, right?

2 weird sexual harassment cases, with 8 lessons for employers

I hope everyone had a happy holiday season. Now that we are into the nasty, brutish and short days of January (and especially for our friends suffering through Winter Storm Hercules), I will try to warm things up with a couple of weird-but-instructive sexual harassment cases.

Facebook Post Doesn’t Count as a Sexual Harassment Complaint

The Tenth Circuit recently said no in Debord v. Mercy Health Sys. Of Kan., Inc., 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 23733 (10th. Cir. Nov. 26, 2013). The case involved Sara Debord, a nuclear-medicine technician, who claimed her employer, Mercy Hospital in Independence, Kansas, retaliated against her for making a complaint of sexual harassment. The “complaint” in question was a Facebook post Debord made stating:

Third-Party Harassment Could Lead To Employer Liability

Most employers understand the significant consequences of sexual harassment at the workplace and take proactive measures to train employees about proper conduct. However, liability is not limited to the conduct of employees. Employers also have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment by third parties such as clients, vendors, patients, and customers, when the employer knows about the conduct and fails to take any corrective action. Although third-party harassment is reportedly just as common, many employers do not take appropriate steps to prevent it.