Limiting Liability for Sexual Harassment
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LIMITING SEXUAL HARASSMENT LIABILITY

In a June 2004 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders, it is now easier for employees to sue for monetary damages when they are sexually harassed at work.

Constructive Termination. In its decision, the Supreme Court held that employees who quit because working conditions are intolerable due to sexual harassment will be treated as if they had been fired, i.e., wrongfully terminated.

Minimizing Damages. On a positive note, both the U.S. Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court have recently issued opinions making it easier for employers to avoid paying damages when an employee fails to report sexual harassment. To avoid damages, employers (including associations with employees and management companies) must create and maintain sexual harassment reporting procedures. These procedures, among other things, must identify who is responsible for handling sexual harassment complaints and the information must be distributed to all existing and newly hired employees.

Written Policies. Plaintiffs do not necessarily need to show a loss of advancement, retaliation, or loss of income to bring an action against an employer. All they need to show is the nature of the sexual conduct that caused them to experience discrimination. As a result, it is especially important for associations and management companies to have written policies against sexual harassment in their employee handbooks, and to make sure their supervisors undergo some training to avoid even the appearance of harassment. Employers are especially vulnerable when there is dating between supervisors and subordinates and safeguards need to be installed to protect the employer from potential liability.

Sexual Harassment Training. Since employers are generally liable for sexual harassment committed by supervisors whether or not the harassment is reported by the employee, all supervisors should attend some form of sexual harassment training.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC