Magazine article Workforce

Employers May Be Liable for Harassment Even When Unaware of It

Magazine article Workforce

Employers May Be Liable for Harassment Even When Unaware of It

Article excerpt

In a recent 7 to 2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that employers may be liable for supervisor harassment, even when they are not aware of the misconduct.

Beth Ann Faragher, a lifeguard for the city of Boca Raton, Florida, alleged that two male supervisors harassed her for five years. She sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The U.S. district court held the city liable. The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, stating the supervisors were not acting within the scope of their employment and were not aided in the harassment by their positions. Also, the city, once informed of the harassment, had investigated and disciplined the supervisors.

The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed and held that an employer could be liable for harassment, even when it lacked notice of the misconduct, reasoning harassment may be made possible by abuse of authority and reluctance to expose a superior. The Court avoided imposing strict liability on an employer by approving a defense when an employer took reasonable steps to avoid and remedy harassment or an employee failed to follow employer safeguards. Faragher vs. Boca Raton, Fla., U.S., No. 97282 (6/26/98).

-James E. Hall and D. Diane Hatch Religion is one of those topics that you don't discuss with people you don't know very well. This is done for a good reason: It's personal, wildly divergent among people, and can be a volatile topic. So how do you approach this intimate, prickly subject with the woman who needs Christmas off, the man who must wear a yarmulke, or those folks who always seem to be recruiting new blood for their churches? …

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