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For many of us, our job is not just a source for a paycheck, but an important part of our identity and life’s purpose. Unfortunately, workplace harassment can all too often rob us of these great opportunities and feelings of accomplishment. An experienced attorney can help a person through this process.
Everyone has the right to work in a non-hostile environment free from harassment. As such, the state of Tennessee allows all workers to report instances of harassment to the Equal Opportunity Employment Division of the Department of Human Resources. A Tennessee workplace harassment lawyer can work to ensure this complaint process is properly initiated and that clients are given the best chances possible for the remedies they seek.
In short, harassment is any activity that makes a person feel uncomfortable. This activity may include jokes, posting of offensive pictures, use of slurs or stereotypes, sexual innuendos, and unwanted personal inquiries.
While harassment is a rather broad category in Tennessee law, it is more the reactions that these actions elicit that makes them illegal rather than their intent. In fact, the official state position is that the actor’s intent is irrelevant when considering if an act counts as harassment.
The actions taken are only considered harassment if they are directed at a person because of who that person is. Tennessee law specifies several personal attributes that may not be targeted in this manner, including race, skin color, national origin, age, sex, and religious beliefs. Additionally, veteran status and pregnancy are conditions that are protected under Tennessee harassment law.
If any of these traits are the subject of abuse or even negative comment, this behavior constitutes harassment. If this behavior becomes consistent and unavoidable, the situation can devolve into a hostile work environment.
Perhaps the most severe example of harassment is harassment of a sexual nature. This encompasses not just inappropriate language or touching by fellow employees, but also implications that a worker’s future at the company depends on their sexual availability. Any of these actions are grounds for filing a complaint.
A good first step to addressing workplace harassment can be to file a complaint with the company’s Human Resources department. Most larger companies will investigate the incident and take appropriate remedial measures. In some situations, though, the harassment is committed by a manager or executive at the company who may possess influence over the HR department, or the investigation may produce an unsatisfactory result.
Tennessee law allows people who are harassed by managers or executives to file a complaint directly with the Department of Human Resources of the Equal Employment Office.
The Equal Employment Office has direct jurisdiction to investigate complaints against managers and companies who refuse to properly handle allegations of harassment. The agency will interview all applicable witnesses and delve into company policy to get to the bottom of all allegations. As much as possible, the complainant’s identity is kept confidential while the investigation is ongoing. The agency has the power to require that a company punish the guilty parties. These punishments can include counseling sessions, additional training, changing in job duties, and termination.
It is rarely a simple decision to file a harassment complaint at work. People may feel uncomfortable elevating a rude comment or joke into such a serious affair, or fear they risk their jobs upon speaking out. However, harassment is unacceptable at any level, and Tennessee law strictly forbids any person or company from retaliating against anyone making accusations of harassment.
A Tennessee workplace harassment lawyer can stand by your side through the entire process to ensure these regulations are followed. We can also help clients properly file complaints with the appropriate state agencies and follow through with the investigations.
Contact us today to take the first step towards a more rewarding and dignified workplace environment – an environment protected for you by the law.