Intimidating hostile or offensive work environment

However, the issue of harassment has become increasingly well known and by fiscal year 2003, 17.6% of the total discrimination charges filed with the EEOC were harassment claims. This makes harassment determinations difficult – not just for courts attempting to apply legal standards – but for human resource professionals and employment law specialists attempting to determine whether actionable harassment has occurred. In deciding how much is enough, courts generally consider "the totality of the circumstances," including: the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, the severity of the conduct, whether the conduct is physically threatening and whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.

It is not, however, just one of these factors that sways a workplace harassment case.

In a limited number of situations, the presence of a single, severe act is sufficient to establish a claim of hostile work environment harassment. 2001) (decision in favor of a female flight attendant who was allegedly raped by a male co-worker during a brief layover in Rome).

Perhaps the best examples of single, severe acts are cases involving rape of one employee by another. Such cases are extreme examples, and it is hardly surprising that the conduct is considered severe enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment.

This is a logical result given that the "severe or pervasive" requirement was designed to "filter out complaints attacking the ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language, gender related jokes, and occasional teasing." Faragher v. Payton left the room only after another employee suddenly entered.

Within a week or two of these incidents, Payton stated in front of customers that he could perform oral sex on Hostetler so well that she would "turn cartwheels." The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals described this case as "a close one," but ultimately held that the "physical, intimate and forcible" nature of the acts rendered the conduct severe enough to alter Hostetler’s work environment. 2003), involved a male science teacher, Yates, who frequently visited Kathy Lynn Alagna, the female school counselor, at her school office and called her at home to discuss his failed relationships and intimate details of his personal life. Michelle Birchstein, an assembly line worker, began receiving unwanted sexual attention from a co-worker. The woman who struck Jones had previously hit other male employees in the groin.

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