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Equal Rights Division Newsletter - February 22, 2022

When does an employer become responsible for an employee's behavior?

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division enforces fair employment law which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment. In cases of workplace harassment, an employer may be liable for the unlawful behavior of an employee in three types of situations. Read below to learn more.

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If the harasser is an agent of the company

An employer may be liable for an employee's harassing behavior if the employee, or harasser, is considered an "agent" of the employer. Agents include supervisors, managers, owners, and partners of a company. Agents are employees who are in a position of power over other employees.

If the harassment has been reported

Employers are responsible for maintaining a harassment-free workplace. If a manager or supervisor was made aware of the harassing behavior and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective actions, then the employer may be liable for the harassment.

If the harassment is "quid pro quo"

Quid pro quo sexual harassment happens when an employer or agent takes adverse action against an employee due to their refusal of sexual advances or favors. Employers are liable for this type of sexual harassment.

Know Your Rights

Every employee has the right to work in a workplace free of unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. If you believe you have been sexually harassed in the workplace or retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment, you may want to contact the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division.

What if the harassment is online

Employers are still responsible for providing a work environment free of harassment for their employees, even when those employees are working virtually. This includes having a policy on online harassment, investigating allegations of harassment, and taking appropriate corrective action to stop any such behavior.


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