All employees in Connecticut deserve a safe, secure workplace in which they are treated fairly and feel comfortable. Unfortunately, that simply does always happen. Federal and state laws—including
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act—provide protections against workplace harassment.
This raises an important question: When can an employer be held legally liable for workplace harassment? The answer depends on several different factors. In this article, our Connecticut workplace harassment lawyers explain the most important things workers should know about when an employer can be held legally responsible for harassment.
An Overview of Workplace Harassment Claims and Employer Liability in Connecticut
Broadly defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment is “unwelcome conduct”—but it only becomes legally actionable when certain criteria are met. Employees should understand the following three key things about workplace harassment claims in Connecticut:
- Harassment Must Be Based on a Protected Characteristic: Title VII and relevant Connecticut state law protect workers against harassment based on certain immutable characteristics. That you were generally made to feel unwelcome in the workplace—even if you were treated very poorly—is not necessarily illegal. To bring a workplace harassment claim, a worker must prove that the harassment was based on a protected characteristic, such as race, national origin, sex, gender, or disability status.
- Severe or Pervasive Standard Applies: One off-color comment is not always enough to have a workplace harassment claim. Courts use the “severe or pervasive” standard in workplace harassment cases. In order to bring a successful workplace harassment claim against an employer, an employee must prove that they were made to feel unsafe or unwelcome based on a legally protected characteristic and that their mistreatment was so severe or so pervasive that it would have made an ordinary person feel uncomfortable.
- An Employer has a Proactive Duty to Prevent and Address Harassment: A Connecticut employer’s duty to protect workers from unlawful harassment is a proactive one. Ignorance is not a valid defense in a workplace harassment claim. An employer may be legally liable for workplace harassment committed by the business owner, a manager/supervisor, a co-worker, or even a client/customer.
Workplace harassment claims are complex. What constitutes unlawful harassment in the workplace is always fact-specific. If you believe that you were harassed in violation of your right, an experienced Connecticut employment lawyer can help. A comprehensive investigation is a must.
Speak to a Workplace Harassment Attorney in Connecticut
At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our Connecticut employee rights advocates are devoted to representing the best interests of workers. If you or someone close to you was a victim of unlawful harassment in the workplace, we are more than ready to help. Give us a call at (413) 785-1400 or contact us online for your completely private case review. Our law firm provides employee representation throughout all of Connecticut, including in Hartford, Manchester and New Haven.