Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (a federal law) and the Missouri Human Rights Act (a state law) prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace.
An employee’s evidence
A party alleging sexual harassment is tasked with establishing that:
- she was a member of a protected class;
- she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment;
- the harassment was based on her sex;
- this harassment affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment in a manner sufficiently severe to create an abusive work environment and
- the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take proper remedial action.
If an employee suffers a tangible employment action resulting from supervisory harassment, the “tangible employment action taken by the supervisor becomes for Title VII purposes the act of the employer,” and the employer is liable for the discriminatory conduct.
An employer’s affirmative defense
If, on the other hand, no tangible employment action occurs (for example, when an employee is subjected to a hostile work environment), the employer is entitled to an affirmative defense to liability.
The defense comprises two necessary elements:
- that the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior, and
- that the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer to avoid harm otherwise
We have extensive experience with sexual harassment law and its application to today’s workplace. Contact us to discuss your situation involving a sexual harassment claim.