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The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Recently Reiterated the Elements of a Sexual Harassment Claim

by | Nov 24, 2021 | sexual harassment

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which reviews appeals from decisions made by federal courts in Ohio and neighboring states, including federal courts sitting in Cleveland, Akron, Toledo and Youngstown, reiterated during June 2021 the elements of a claim of hostile work environment based on sexual harassment.

The Sixth Circuit held to prevail on a Title VII claim of hostile work environment based on sexual harassment, the female “employee must show that: (1) she was a member of a protected class; (2) she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment; (3) the harassment complained of was based on sex; (4) the charged sexual harassment created a hostile work environment; and (5) the employer is liable.”

The Sixth Circuit held that the standard for employer liability differs depending on whether the sexual harassment was carried out by a supervisor or coworker: “In the case of a sexually harassing supervisor, the employer is vicariously liable for the hostile work environment.” But, the Court said, when the sexual harassment is committed by a coworker, the employer is liable only ‘if it knew or should have known of the charged sexual harassment and failed to implement prompt and appropriate corrective action.’ ”

To find liability for sexual harassment, the Sixth Circuit determined that the employer’s response to a coworker’s sexual harassment must “manifest indifference or unreasonableness in light of the facts the employer knew or should have known.” The Sixth Circuit held an employer’s response is generally adequate “if it is ‘reasonably calculated to end the sexual harassment.'” The Sixth Circuit went on to state that there are no hard and fast rules but that “[t]he appropriate corrective response will vary according to the severity and persistence of the alleged harassment.” The Sixth Circuit explained that “[s]teps that would ‘establish a base level of reasonably appropriate corrective action’ may include promptly initiating an investigation [,] . . . ‘speaking with the specific individuals identified’ in the complaint, ‘following up with the complainant,’ and ‘reporting the harassment to others in management.’”

To determine if you have a claim for sexual harassment hostile work environment, call Dale Bernard at 440-546-7500.