The Federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Virginia) last week issued a decision of first impression concerning an employer’s liability for harassment of an employee caused by a third party such as a visiting vendor.
In that case a regular customer of the employer engaged in sexual and racial harassment of a black female employee. For the first time, the 4th Circuit adopted a negligence standard for determining if an employer is liable:
“Therefore, an employer is liable under the Title VII for third parties creating a hostile work environment if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed ‘to take prompt remedial action reasonably calculated to end the harassment.'”
Employers should be aware that you can be held liable for a hostile work environment even if it is not created by other employees.