While there is a federal law that explicitly protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace, known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there are also state laws that protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.
These state laws are particularly necessary when the company that is in the wrong does not employ the requisite number of employees required by federal law. While Alabama does not have a specific statute outlawing sexual harassment in the workplace, it does recognize four (4) separate causes of action for torts that an employee may be able to bring against his or her employer for sexual harassment: assault, battery, outrage, and invasion of privacy.
Establishing Vicarious Liability Against an Employer
To bring a lawsuit against an employer under one (1) or more of these tort causes of action, an employee must be able to establish liability against the employer.
A company is only liable for the intentional torts of its agents or other employees, against another individual, if that individual can establish that:
- The agent’s wrongful acts were committed in the line and scope of the agent’s employment
- The acts were committed in furtherance of the business of the employer; or
- That the employer participated in, authorized, or ratified the wrongful acts.
The employer is directly liable for its own conduct if it authorizes or participates in the employee’s acts or ratifies the employee’s conduct after it learns of the action.
Therefore, a complaining employee must show that his or her employer:
- Had actual knowledge of the tortious conduct of the offending employee and that the tortious conduct was directed at and visited upon the complaining employee;
- That based upon this knowledge, the employer knew, or should have known, that such conduct constituted sexual harassment and/or a continuing tort; and
- That the employer failed to take adequate steps to remedy the situation.
A claim for assault and battery requires “any touching by one person of the person of another in rudeness or anger.”
To succeed on a claim alleging invasion of privacy relating to sexual harassment, an employee must show:
- That the matters intruded into are of a private nature;
- That the intrusion would be so offensive or objectionable that a reasonable person subjected to it would experience outrage, mental suffering, shame, or humiliation.
Finally, the tort of outrage requires the employee establish that the employer’s conduct was
- Intentional or reckless;
- Extreme and outrageous; and
- Caused emotional distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.
Sexual harassment may qualify under each of these torts. There are also other causes of action an employee may be able to bring against its employer or previous employer for torts related to sexual harassment, including but not limited to, negligent failure to provide a safe work place and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision.
Contact Us for Help
If you feel you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you.