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Sexual Harassment in the News Again

The recent news surrounding multiple allegations against Presidential candidate Herman Cain has brought the issue of workplace sexual harassment into the spotlight again.  The allegations against Mr. Cain, whether true or not, reflect the serious nature of sexual harassment in today’s workplace.  Too often employees are forced to endure unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate sexual statements and generally offensive sexual conduct and comments that make the workplace a “hostile work environment.”  While isolated jokes, teasing or comments may not provide a sufficient basis for a sexual harassment claim based on a hostile work environment, the true test involves careful consideration of the subjective and objective factors involved in the particular circumstances.  In Christian v. AHS Tulsa Reg’l Med. Ctr., LLC, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently described these considerations as a two-part test, requiring the victim to first “establish that a reasonable person would find the work environment hostile or abusive,” and then to show “that she [or he] subjectively perceived the work environment to be hostile or abusive.”  In other words, to succeed on a sexual harassment claim based upon a hostile work environment, the victim must not only show that he or she perceived the circumstances to constitute a sexually hostile or abusive environment, but also that a reasonable person in the same situation would also perceive the circumstances to be sexually hostile or abusive.  Ariane De Vogue has posted a good article about sexual harassment and Mr. Cain on the ABC News Legal Blog at abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/11/sexual-harassment-where-is-line-drawn/.  Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, amounting to a hostile work environment, should contact Ogborn Mihm immediately to discuss their potential claims.

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