As Minnesotans continue to work from home, it is important to remember that employees are still protected by the same sexual harassment laws regardless of where they perform their work. Whether an employee works in an office or at home, travels for business, or engages with others from work socially outside of the office, most of the same sexual harassment protections apply. In other words, just because an employee is away from the office does not mean that the employer is no longer responsible for sexual harassment committed by its employees, especially when the harassing conduct is perpetrated by a supervisor, management-level employee, or owner. The employer can be held responsible for co-worker sexual harassment too, but courts may look at whether the employer could have anticipated it or already had knowledge of the co-worker’s proclivities.
Sexual harassment has no place in the workplace
In this regard, on June 3, 2020, in the Kenneh v. Homeward Bound, Inc. case, the Minnesota Supreme Court re-emphasized that sexual harassment has no place in today’s workplace. It gave employers an unequivocal warning that the standards of the past no longer apply in Minnesota today: sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace and the lower courts must allow juries to decide sexual harassment cases “[i]f a reasonable person could find the alleged behavior objectively abusive or offensive.” But the Court clarified that what is tolerated in Minnesota today is not what was tolerated in Minnesota in the past: “[t]oday, reasonable people would likely not tolerate the type of workplace behavior that courts previously brushed aside as an ‘unsuccessful pursuit of a relationship,’ . . . or ‘boorish, chauvinistic, and decidedly immature.’” The Minnesota Supreme Court emphasized that sexual harassment cases should be decided by juries and not routinely thrown out in the early stages by judges. This decision bolsters employees’ rights and it will make it harder for employers to escape liability for sexual harassment.
Holding employers responsible for workplace harassment
Whether you are working from home or back on the jobsite, we are proud to work with and help people who have been sexually harassed and we look forward to holding Minnesota’s employers to the heightened standards recently set out by the Minnesota Supreme Court. If you are in need of representation in your workplace sexual harassment case, you can reach Schaefer Halleen’s workplace harassment attorneys at 612-294-2600.