An employer is always responsible for harassment by a supervisor that culminated in a tangible employment action. If the harassment did not lead to a tangible employment action, the employer may still be liable unless it proves that it exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassment and the employee unreasonably failed to complain to management or to otherwise avoid harm.
What should employers do to prevent and correct harassment? Employers should establish, publicize, and enforce a policy prohibiting harassment and setting out a procedure for making complaints. In most cases, the policy and procedure should be in writing.
Does an employee who is harassed by his or her supervisor have any responsibilities? Yes. The employee must take reasonable steps to avoid harm from the harassment. Usually, the employee will exercise this responsibility by using the employer’s complaint procedure.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers guidance on laws and Supreme Court decisions regarding potential liability employers may have in the instance of harassment by supervisors. Further guidance on harassment can be found on the EEOC’s website (www.eeoc.gov).
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