Is an employer liable for hostile work environment discrimination and harassment?

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2023Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2023

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2023Fact Checked

Hostile work environment discrimination occurs when your work environment is made unpleasant on the basis of your protected status. If you are experiencing harassment from co-workers or otherwise being made to feel uncomfortable (such as by constantly hearing sexually inappropriate jokes or jokes about your religion for example) this may be an example of hostile environment discrimination. Whether or not an employer is going to be liable for hostile work environment discrimination or harassment depends upon the situation and the employer’s culpability.

If an employer is aware that a hostile work environment has been created and takes no action to correct the problem, then the employer can be held liable for the discrimination and harassment. However, under federal law, if the employer is not made aware of the situation, the employer will likely not be held responsible for this type of harassment. This is especially true if the employer has a program in place that allows employees to report discrimination or related problems and the employee who is being discriminated against does not take advantage of the program.

Employees considering suing for hostile work environment discrimination or harassment should keep careful documentation of any instance of harassment. A diary with the dates, times, and a detailed description of the event is helpful. Further, if you intend to sue and hold the employer responsible, it’s also imperative to keep a detailed record of any attempts to notify the employer of the problem, along with details about whatever response (or non-response) you received from your employer.

Contacting an attorney as early as you can in the process can go a long way toward ensuring that you are able to get the relief you need from your hostile work environment claim, as your lawyer can assist you in gathering any and all evidence of discrimination or harassment that may be required.

Case Studies: Employer Liability for Hostile Work Environment Discrimination and Harassment

Case Study 1: Sarah’s Experience

Sarah works in a male-dominated industry and has been subjected to persistent sexist remarks and inappropriate comments from her coworkers. Despite feeling uncomfortable and harassed, she hesitates to report the incidents to her employer. Eventually, Sarah consults with an attorney who advises her on the legal options available.

The attorney helps Sarah understand the importance of documenting each incident and encourages her to utilize the employer’s reporting program. Insurance considerations may come into play if Sarah experiences emotional distress or psychological harm as a result of the hostile work environment, as she may need to seek coverage for therapy or counseling services.

Case Study 2: Mark’s Case

Mark, an employee at a large corporation, is being subjected to racial discrimination and offensive racial slurs by his supervisor. Feeling helpless and unable to change the situation on his own, Mark decides to consult an attorney. The attorney guides Mark through the process of reporting the incidents to the appropriate channels within the company, ensuring that his complaints are properly documented.

The attorney also helps Mark understand his rights and the potential legal remedies available. Insurance considerations may involve exploring options for legal expense insurance coverage to support Mark’s legal representation during the litigation process.

Case Study 3: Emily’s Situation

Emily, a transgender employee, faces persistent discrimination and transphobic remarks from her colleagues at work. She decides to take action and engages an attorney who specializes in employment law. The attorney assists Emily in filing a formal complaint with the company’s human resources department and guides her through the internal investigation process.

Additionally, the attorney educates Emily about her rights under federal and state laws, including protections against gender identity discrimination. Insurance considerations may involve reviewing employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) coverage, which can provide financial protection to employers in case of claims related to discrimination or harassment.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption