Our federal employment attorneys recently settled a sexual harassment case. Our attorneys fought to resolve a complex case where, among other things, our client was mistreated and subjected to harassment because assumptions were made about our client’s sexual orientation in a pejorative manner. The majority of the harassment was by coworkers, and we argued the agency should, nonetheless, be liable for the actions of its employees.
In cases of co-worker harassment, it is possible the harassment to have occurred, but the agency to be found not liable for the harassment of its employees. Understanding the basis for liability can be particularly complex when dealing with harassment by coworkers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, by regulation and case law has established that an agency is liable for prohibited harassment by a coworker where the agency knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt and effective corrective action. See 29 CFR 1604.11(d) (“With respect to conduct between fellow employees, an employer is responsible for acts of sexual harassment in the workplace where the employer (or its agents or supervisory employees) knows or should have known of the conduct, unless it can show that it took immediate and appropriate corrective action”). Essentially, the Commission has adopted a negligence standard when it comes to harassment by coworkers. Negligence is a complex legal concept.
As such, if you are facing harassment, it might behoove you to work with one of our federal employment attorneys. If you are a federal employee facing a hostile work environment, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.