One challenge that employees of Tennessee companies who are victims of sexual harassment at work may face is that in many cases, the behavior does not reach a legal standard that permits action to be taken. Reports of harassment at Nike that have caused several executives to resign or announce their resignation is one example. They include going to strip clubs at staff outings, email comments about a woman’s breasts and a number of reports of being overlooked for promotion.
However, the bar for taking legal action is a high one. In some cases, harassment is aggressive and egregious, but when it is not, it may not legally be considered unlawful despite being unpleasant for the employee who experiences it. The harassment has to create a hostile work environment because of its severity and frequency. It also has to be based on a protected characteristic such as the person’s sex or race.
One way some companies have attempted to work around this is by setting higher standards and providing mechanisms for addressing workplace harassment even when it does not meet the legal test. However, what reports from Nike and other companies have shown is that despite having these policies in place, many companies simply decline to take action.
This is one of several reasons sexual harassment often goes unreported. Employees also fear they will not be believed, worry about retaliation or think it may hurt their career in subtle ways. An attorney may be able to offer guidance to an employee about how strong a legal case that employee might have and how the harassment should be documented or reported. Usually, it is best to follow the company procedures for reporting harassment and take action if the company does not investigate or address the issue appropriately. The next step could include filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.