Practice Areas

Hostile Work Environment

It is against State and Federal law for an employer, supervisor or co-worker to harass an employee on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment or any other protected status harassment violates civil rights. The Cochran Firm is committed to fight for victims’ rights, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to make the workplace better.

 

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment may be in the form of a sexual “quid pro quo”, a demand for sexual interaction in exchange for a job benefit. For example, a secretary may be made to fear that if she does not have sex with her boss, she may not be promoted or may even lose her job.

Additionally, sexual harassment and harassment based on a person’s other protected status is unlawful if the harassment is so “severe or pervasive” that it creates a hostile or abusive work environment. Such severe or pervasive, hostile work environment harassment may or may not include sexual demands, but includes behavior that is sexual in nature, unwanted and adversely affects the victim’s work environment. For example, even though the boss does not expressly demand sex from his secretary, he constantly calls her “sweetie,” “babe,” and other sexist names; he puts his arm around her shoulders or otherwise touches her in an unwanted fashion, such as brushing against parts of her body presumably “by accident;” he sends her or allows to be sent in the office email of dirty sexual jokes or porn; he posts or allows sexually offensive pictures or cartoons; he comments on her “sexy” wardrobe or her figure; he speaks with “double entendre” and innuendo; and the work environment is otherwise permeated with unwanted sexual content. Unfortunately, under the law, these behaviors in isolation by themselves or even in combination of several isolated instances may not be actionable. The law requires that the combination of all things must amount to “severe or pervasive” sexual conduct to be actionable.

Harassment because of sex includes sexual harassment, gender harassment, and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

An employer is liable for harassment by it managers and supervisors. However, an employer may only be liable for harassment by non-supervisory co-workers only if the entity, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of this conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

The definition of sexual harassment includes many forms of offensive behavior, including harassment of a person of the same gender as the harasser. The following is a partial list of types of sexual harassment:

 

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors
  • Actual or threatened retaliation
  • Leering; making sexual gestures; or displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters
  • Making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, or jokes
  • Sexual comments including graphic comments about an individual’s body; sexually degrading words used to describe an individual; or suggestive or obscene letters, notes, or invitations
  • Physical touching or assault, as well as impeding or blocking movements

 

The Cochran Firm’s Employment Law team of lawyers and other professionals have extensive experience, including substantial jury trial experience, representing victims of sexual harassment and harassment based on many of the other protected categories. The law requires victims to take action within a limited time of the occurrence of the sexual and other harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. If you or someone you know have been a victim, we are here to help you with our zealous advocacy to obtain proper vindication for the violation of your civil rights.