We understand how harassment at work can impact the lives of employees and their families. Harassment of employees at work also can cause severe emotional distress and health issues. The harassment lawyers at Azadian Law Group, PC fight employers aggressively to make sure they secure the maximum recovery for victims of illegal harassment at work.
Harassment becomes unlawful where (1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or (2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.
Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.
Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.
The employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. In this regard, California Government Code section 12940(j)(3) provides for individual liability on the part of the supervisor for such harassment: “An employee of an entity subject to this subdivision is personally liable for any harassment prohibited by this section that is perpetrated by the employee, regardless of whether the employer or covered entity knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.” This is referred to as holding the employer “strictly liable” for such harassment by a supervisor. See Myers v. Trendwest Resorts, Inc., 148 Cal. App. 4th 1403, 1419 (2007).
If the supervisor’s harassment results in a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability only if it can prove that: (1) it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; and (2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.
The employer will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control (e.g., independent contractors or customers on the premises), if it knew, or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action. See Carrisales v. Dep’t of Corr., 21 Cal. 4th 1132, 1135 (1999) (“Harassment of an employee…by an employee other than an agent or supervisor…shall be unlawful if the entity, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of this conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate action.”) Indeed, an employer violates the law if it fails to “take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.” See California Government Code section 12940(k).
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