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The law requires employers in Tennessee to maintain workplaces that do not inflict trauma or excessive discomfort on employees. Criminal allegations against an employee represent a situation where an employer should consider how the possible criminal might affect co-workers. The case of an employer that ignored the complaints of an employee that had allegedly been raped by a co-worker could result in liability for the company. A federal appeals court has already determined that the employee’s hostile work environment charge can proceed to a jury trial.

The employer, a state corrections department, allegedly created a hostile work environment that forced a female employee to resign. Her problems began when she accused a co-worker of raping her outside of the workplace. She obtained a protective order. The man was facing a criminal investigation for another rape accusation. The employer placed him on administrative leave, but managers made it clear to the staff that they expected him to return.

The company also refused to honor the protective order the female victim obtained that forbade the man from visiting the workplace when she was present. Upset by the situation, she requested paid leave, which the employer denied. She then took an unpaid leave, and management allegedly led her co-workers to think that she was faking an illness. The woman used these actions as the basis for her lawsuit.

Many behaviors could qualify as contributors to a hostile work environment, such as unwanted sexual advances or offensive sexual comments. Someone who suspects that his or her managers or co-workers are guilty of sexual harassment could ask an attorney for assistance. A lawyer could document text or email exchanges and interview co-workers to gather testimony for a lawsuit. Compensation pursued could include lost pay and punitive damages against the employer.