Privacy concerns in the workplace are not uncommon. It can be particularly disturbing for an employee when a supervisor or business owner starts to interject themselves into the employee’s personal life. If the interactions become sexual in nature, that could raise different concerns that may be violations of anti-discrimination laws. So, when does an employer cross the legal line and what can you do?
A female employee is made aware that her employer (an older female) does not like the employee's boyfriend and instead encourages her to date another employee. This older male employee begins acting inappropriately in the workplace and sexually harassing her outside of the workplace as well. Although the female employee expresses her disinterest in the male employee, both to him and the female business owner, the personal and harassing comments continue at the workplace.
The female employee is ultimately forced to resign because the working conditions have become unbearable. The employer refuses to cease her efforts to break up the employee’s relationship with her boyfriend and takes no steps to stop the male employee from harassing her. When the female employee gives her employer notice that she is resigning, her employer responds badly to the news. The employer starts sending threatening text messages to the employee and calling her to yell and threaten her, as well.
Is There Any Recourse?
Any employee in this situation would certainly want to know whether any legal recourse is available. As with all employment cases, the specific facts of the situation will determine whether there are any viable legal claims. Here are some issues to consider with regard to this scenario. First, the employer’s apparent obsession with the employee's romantic interests is unprofessional and inappropriate, but there are no particular laws that prohibit such conduct.
On the other hand, the employer could possibly be held responsible for sexual harassment at the hands of the male employee. This is especially true if it can be shown that the employer actually encouraged his behavior. However, if the conduct that actually constitutes sexual harassment only occurred outside of the workplace, the employer would not be liable for that conduct alone.
Factors to Consider in Sexual Harassment Cases
When it comes to sexual harassment cases, there are a lot of factual issues that must be considered before an employee can determine whether a claim can be brought under Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination statute that protects against sexual harassment in the workplace. For example, does the employer have the required number of employees in order to be covered by Title VII? Was the male employee a supervisor with some authority over the female employee? Did the female employee actually make her complaints known to her supervisor? There are many other factors that an employment discrimination attorney would be best suited to help you consider before deciding to bring a legal claim.
Potential Claims Unrelated to Workplace Discrimination
Depending on the severity of the business owner’s harassing and threatening phone calls and text messages, the employee may have a claim for harassing communications. The same may be true with regard to the male employee’s actions toward her outside of the workplace. Remember to discuss all of the facts with your attorney to determine whether any of the various other civil actions (and possibly criminal actions) that exist may apply to your case.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation 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!