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What is the employer’s responsibility when it learns of illegal harassment? Should it do nothing just because the employee wants to keep it quiet?

An employer who is notified of illegal harassment in the workplace and fails to take adequate remedial action may be held liable for its inaction. The employer cannot allow a hostile work environment to continue.  Once the employer has notice of the allegedly harassing and/or discriminatory conduct, it has an affirmative obligation to remedy the situation.

As part of the investigation, the employer needs co consider a broad range of conduct that can contribute to the creation of a hostile work environment. The accumulated effect of incidents of humiliating, offensive comments directed at women/minorities/gays/religious employees/older employees, and work-sabotaging pranks, taken together, can constitute a hostile work environment.

A hostile work environment claim does not have to rest on just one instance of illegal harassment.  A hostile work environment also occurs when there is an aggregation of hostile acts extending over a period of time.


Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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