Workplace harassment, including sexual harassment, can potentially be the basis for several claims under federal and state law. These cases depend heavily on the specific facts and events, so you should document all instances of harassment and discuss your case with an employment attorney to determine what claims you may have.
Harassment and Hostile Work Environments
Harassment based on a legally protected status—such as race, gender, religion, or disability—could give rise to an employment discrimination claim. Both federal law and Arizona law prohibit workplace discrimination based on membership in a protected group.
If there is a pattern of harassment based on a protected status, you may be able to claim that you were subject to a hostile work environment. However, not all instances of verbal abuse or bullying will provide legal justification for a hostile work environment claim.
If a co-worker teases you about your hair or your fashion choices, this alone will not support a hostile work environment claim. You may have other remedies in certain situations, depending on the specific facts of your case, but you will not have a case for discrimination based on a protected status.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Federal law prohibits unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors in the workplace. A claim for sexual harassment may exist if the employer requests a quid pro quo arrangement by stating or implying that the employee’s job or potential promotion will be impacted if they object to sexual harassment. A claim may also exist when a pattern of this type of behavior creates a hostile work environment.
Employers who permit such conduct in the workplace may face liability. Employers can attempt to avoid such liability with policies and training designed to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. However, just having a policy against sexual harassment is not always enough to defeat a sexual harassment claim. If an employee ever complains about sexual harassment in the workplace, employers should take the allegations seriously and conduct a proper investigation into the incident.
Like other employment discrimination claims, sexual harassment claims must first be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Arizona Civil Rights Division. Only after exhausting administrative remedies will an employee be able to file a lawsuit against their employer for sexual harassment.
Chernoff Law handles employment law matters throughout Arizona. Contact us by calling 480-719-7307 to discuss your employment dispute.