The costs of harassment and discrimination in the workplace are high. Of course, there is the threat of legal and civil penalties, lawsuits, and fines. Individuals found guilty of harassment or discrimination, as well as the company, could be liable.
Harassment and discrimination leads to feelings of anxiety, fear, frustration, and powerlessness. These are not characteristics of happy, productive employees. Teams are disrupted, collaboration is damaged, and morale takes a dive. Because of the emotional difficulties in facing harassment and discrimination, or even in gathering the strength to report it, employees may quit their jobs rather than endure the harassment. Your company might lose some of its best employees because of the behavior of your company’s worst employees.
Personal Strict and Vicarious Liability
Anyone found to have unlawfully harassed a co-worker, applicant or contractor is personally liable for the damages caused by the harassment.
- If the harasser was a supervisor, the employer is strictly liable for those acts; the employer is vicariously liable for harassment by employees that the employer knew or should have known about.
- In the case of sexual harassment, if the harasser is a third party, but the employer, its agents or supervisors knows of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate action, the employer may be vicariously liable for those acts.