Employment Law

Title VII

Does Title VII apply to harassing behavior on the part of employers?

Yes, Title VII prohibits much racial, sexual, or religious harassment in the employment relationship. Title VII protects employees from such harassment if such harassment is unwelcome and is severe or pervasive. The “severe and pervasive” requirement means that the harassment must be more than an occasional bad comment but generally must occur enough that it makes it much more difficult for an employee to do his or her job. As several courts have written, Title VII is “not a general civility code.” In legal parlance, it must alter the terms and conditions of the workplace.

The U.S. Supreme Court also has distinguished between harassment committed by a co-employee and harassment committed by a supervisor. If the harassment is committed by a co-employee, the employer is liable if the employer knew or should have known of the harassing behavior. If the harassment was committed by a supervisory employee and the employee was discharged or suffers another similar type of tangible employment action, then the employer may be strictly liable.


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