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Nashville Workplace Harassment Attorneys

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Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination that violates federal and Tennessee civil rights and disabilities laws. If an employee is subjected to harassment in the workplace, they may have a claim for compensation and other legal remedies against their employer.

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If you’ve been the victim of workplace harassment, you need to speak with an experienced Nashville workplace harassment attorney as soon as possible. The Nashville employment attorney from the Employment and Consumer Law Group can determine whether you may have a legal claim for workplace harassment and can guide you through the administrative and court processes for pursuing a claim.

Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

What Constitutes Harassment?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as unwelcome conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work environment that is inescapable. This conduct can be verbal or physical, and includes behavior such as slurs, offensive jokes, threats, insults, offensive pictures or objects, assault, and interference with work.

Workplace harassment is generally defined as unlawful when it is directed toward a person who is a member of a protected class. Some of the examples of protected classes recognized by federal and Tennessee law include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Sex or gender
  • Religion or creed
  • Family status (marriage, pregnancy, with children)
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Veteran status
  • Age
  • Citizenship or immigration status

In addition, workplace harassment can also be of a sexual nature. Workplace sexual harassment can include behavior such as unwelcome sexual advances or requests, or sexual conduct of any kind (verbal, written, or physical) by someone in the workplace.

Workplace sexual harassment also includes managers or supervisors who withhold work benefits in exchange for sexual favors, or retaliate against employees who refuse sexual advances.

Examples of Harassment on the Job

Any offensive or unwelcome conduct toward a member of a protected class may count as workplace harassment. Some examples of workplace harassment cited by the Tennessee Department of Human Resources include:

  • Undermining a person’s authority or work performance because of their membership in a protected class
  • Using stereotypes or assumptions about an employee’s protected class to make decisions about the employee
  • Unwelcome touching or near-touching (such as leaning over, cornering, hugging, or pinching)
  • Sexual innuendos, teasing, and other sexual talk, including jokes, personal inquiries, persistent unwanted courting, and sex- or gender-related put-downs
  • Slurs or jokes about a protected class of persons
  • Displays of explicit, suggestive, or offensive materials, such as calendars, posters, pictures, drawings, or cartoons
  • Disparaging remarks about an individual’s race, color, national origin, language, accent, or citizenship or immigration status.

The above examples are by no means an exhaustive list of the types of conduct that can constitute workplace harassment. If any serious or pervasive conduct by others at work has made you feel uncomfortable or intimidated, you may have a case for workplace harassment.

Employers’ Duties to Protect Workers from Harassment

Federal and Tennessee laws place duties on employers to protect their employees from harassment by managers, supervisors, co-workers, and non-workers whom the employer may have some control over at the workplace, such as independent contractors or customers of the business.

The EEOC notes that prevention is the best method for eliminating harassment in the workplace. Employers have a duty to prevent and immediately correct unlawful harassment. Federal and state laws impose obligations on employers to prevent and correct workplace harassment, such as:

  • Posting notice of federal and state anti-discrimination laws in a conspicuous location within the workplace and available electronically to employees (Posters are available from federal and state agencies.)
  • Maintaining employment records for at least one year and payroll records for at least three years
  • Adopting, communicating, and enforcing company policies that explicitly prohibit harassment
  • Providing anti-harassment training to managers, supervisors, and employees
  • Establishing an effective complaint or grievance process by which employees can report suspected harassment, either directed at themselves or others, to company managers
  • Creating a company culture that makes employees comfortable to raise concerns about workplace harassment and confident that such concerns will be genuinely addressed
  • Immediately and thoroughly investigating all complaints of workplace harassment

If an employer has an established and effective anti-harassment policy and grievance procedure in place, it can mitigate their liability for workplace harassment that is not brought to the employer’s attention.

What to Do If You Are Harassed at Work

As an employee, you may be subjected to harassing behavior by any individual in your workplace, including company managers, supervisors, co-workers, outside vendors, contractors, or even customers.

If you have been subjected to harassment at work, your first step should always be to report the harassing conduct to your direct supervisor – or another supervisor or manager at the company if your supervisor is responsible for the harassing conduct – or to your company’s human resources department, if it has one.

Your employer has an obligation to investigate all allegations of harassment. Otherwise, state and federal agencies may subject your employer to an investigation.

If you’ve reported harassment to your employer, your employer has taken no action, and the harassment has continued, you should immediately contact a Tennessee harassment lawyer. An attorney can help you pursue justice by filing a complaint with the EEOC or relevant state agencies, which is typically a requirement before filing a lawsuit for workplace harassment. The federal or state agencies will conduct a preliminary investigation of your complaint and decide to either launch a full investigation, or issue you what is known as a “right to sue” letter, which authorizes you to file a lawsuit for workplace harassment.

If you continue to be subjected to harassment at work and believe the harassment is causing you physical or mental harm or is a threat to your safety, you may decide to take leave from the workplace under the Family and Medical Leave Act or related state statute if you can document a physical or mental condition.

Alternatively, if you decide to terminate your employment due to ongoing harassment, you may have a claim against for your employer for constructive termination, where you decide to terminate your own employment, but your decision is motivated by your employer’s negligence or wrongful acts.

Damages in a Workplace Harassment Lawsuit

If you ultimately decide to bring a workplace harassment lawsuit, you may be entitled to compensation for various expenses and damages you’ve incurred due to the harassment, including:

  • Medical expenses to treat physical or mental harm caused by the harassment
  • Costs associated with a job search if the harassment causes you to leave your job
  • Mental anguish or loss of enjoyment of life caused by the mental strain of the harassment

If a court decides that the employer’s conduct was particularly reckless or malicious, you may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are intended to punish the employer for their misconduct.

State and federal laws impose limits on compensatory and punitive damages in workplace harassment lawsuits, which are:

  • Lawsuits under the Tennessee Human Rights Act:
    • An employer with less than eight employees: $25,000
    • An employer with 8 to 14 employees: $25,000
    • An employer with 15 to 100 employees: $50,000
    • An employer with 101 to 200 employees: $100,000
    • An employee with 201 to 500 employees: $200,000
    • An employee with more than 500 employees: $300,000
    • These limits are not applicable to damages for backpay, front pay, interest on pay, or equitable relief
  • Lawsuits under federal law:
    • An employer with 15 to 100 employees: $50,000
    • An employer with 101 to 200 employees: $100,000
    • An employer with 201 to 500 employees: $200,000
    • An employer with more than 500 employees; $300,000

When you contact a lawyer, they will be able to advise you about how much your claim could be worth.

How Our Nashville Workplace Harassment Lawyers Can Help

If you’ve been subjected to workplace harassment, the Nashville workplace harassment lawyers of The Employment and Consumer Law Group can help you pursue compensation and justice. Our legal team is prepared to investigate your harassment complaint to determine whether you have a viable legal claim for workplace harassment.

We can help you make a complaint or grievance to your employer if your employer has procedures in place. We can also help you if you need to file an administrative complaint with the state or with the EEOC. If you receive your right to sue, we can help you pursue your legal claim against your employer by either reaching a negotiated settlement or taking your claim to court to seek a favorable verdict.

The law protects employees from any retaliation for complaints of workplace harassment, so you have nothing to lose by asserting your rights to a workplace free from harassment. Contact our legal team today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.

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