Volume 1, Issue 1 (May, 2007)
Helpful Information for Small Employers on Employer Liability for
Harassment by Supervisors
Over the past ten years, harassment claims by employees
to employers have increased 48%. Additionally, the financial impact over
the same period has increased 400%! Employers should take an
affirmative approach to address workplace harassment and minimize their
risk. Create a comprehensive workplace policy, educate employees &
supervisors what their responsibilities are and, allow multiple options
for employees to report any such harassment.
Important Information to Know:
of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) prohibits harassment of an
employee based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.
Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits harassment of
employees who are 40 or older on the basis of age.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits harassment based on
All of the
anti-discrimination statutes enforced by the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibit retaliation for complaining
of discrimination or participating in compliant proceedings.
Supreme Court issued two major decisions in June of 1998 that
explained when employers will be held legally responsible for
unlawful harassment by supervisors.
EEOC’s guidelines state
Questions & Answers:
1. When does harassment violate federal law?
Harassment violates federal law if it
involves discriminatory treatment based on race, color, sex (with or
without sexual conduct), religion, national origin, age, and
2. When is an
employer legally responsible for harassment by a supervisor?
An employer is always responsible for
harassment by a supervisor.
3. Who qualifies
as a “supervisor” for purposes of employer liability?
An individual is a “supervisor” if
he/she has the authority to recommend tangible employment decisions
affecting the employee or if the individual has the authority to
direct the employee’s daily work activities.
4. What should
employers do to prevent and correct harassment?
Employers should establish, distribute
and enforce a policy prohibiting harassment and set up a procedure
for making complaints.