Case analysis from Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett was included in an article outlining the impact of the Sixth Circuit’s Ault v. Oberlin College decision. In this case, the Court ruled that a one-time harassment event can be the basis for a hostile work environment. According to Tim’s analysis, “employers should prudently investigate

Wise employers know that a single severe act can be enough to satisfy the standard of “severe or pervasive” and be sexual harassment.  But how severe does the act have to be?

A recent 6th Circuit ruling gives some assistance.  In Ault v. Oberlin College, the Court discussed why a single physical incident was sufficiently severe.  The ruling is likewise informative because it also discusses why several infrequent but boorish comments were not sufficiently severe or pervasive.
Continue Reading Single Severe Act Can Be Sexual Harassment – But How “Severe”?

Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett authored an article outlining steps that companies should consider to provide a safe workplace. In the wake of recent incidents of violence at the workplace, Tim asserts, employers should adopt policies and procedures to foresee issues and be prepared when situations arise. The article discusses some factors contributing

Employers struggle with conduct that appears ambiguous but is interpreted by the “victim” as unlawful.  The dilemma arises most often in a sexual harassment setting.  For example, a co-worker comments that another’s clothes make her “look good” or that he “really likes” her perfume.  Employers, and courts, struggle with the intent behind this conduct.  For example, a recent case involved racial harassment allegations based in part on bananas and banana peels littering the truck of an African-American co-worker. Daily Report Online wrote about this case on its website last week.

Would such anonymous conduct support a claim for a racially hostile environment?  In December 2010, in granting summary judgment to an employer, an Alabama Federal District Court said, “No.”
Continue Reading Employer Dilemma – How Should An Employer Respond to Ambiguous Workplace Conduct