Tag Archives: Employee

Office Conflict

Under Title VII, Is An Employer Liable for the Harassment of A Plaintiff Employee By a Co-Worker?

The Supreme Court has indicated that an employer is liable under Title VII if there is harassment of an employee by a co-worker, but only if  the employer did not control the conditions at work.

This changes if the co-worker is a supervisor, according to a recent Supreme Court decision.

Who is a supervisor?   For purposes of Title VII, it is a person empowered by the employer to take a tangible employment action against the plaintiff employee.

In a case involving a supervisor, in order to hold an employer liable, a plaintiff employee would need to prove that the supervisor’s harassment amounted to a “tangible employment action,” i.e., a significant change such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, etc.  In such a case, the employer would be strictly liable.

In other supervisor cases under Title VII (those in which there was no “tangible employment action”), the employer may be able to establish an affirmative defense to liability if (1) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing behavior and (2) that the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the preventive or corrective opportunities that the employer provided.

For more information or for a consultation regarding your legal issues, please contact McCollum & Associates, LLC, at (301) 864-6070www.jmlaw.net, or jmccollum@jmlaw.net.

(Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


The District of Columbia Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion
regarding unemployment compensation benefits that was notable, in part, because of the Court’s language about the employee’s duty to her employer in the case of an expected absence.

The employee in the case was terminated, allegedly for a variety of reasons, i.e., fraud, inability to perform duties, harassment and absenteeism. The case established that the employee had missed a large number of work days and that she was absent with increasing frequency.  The employee and her employer had problems communicating about (among other items) her absences, her return to work, when she would be working and about the nature of her illness that required her to be absent.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the employer that (1) the employee’s repeated failure timely to apprise her employer “about days of expected absence throughout her employment and (2) respond meaningfully to his request for information about the expected duration of her absence following her December hospitalization” constituted a breach of her duty to her employer.  Or, to use unemployment compensation lingo, constituted simple misconduct.

For more information or for a consultation regarding your legal issues, please contact McCollum & Associates, LLC, at
(301) 864-6070 or jmccollum@jmlaw.net.