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Continuing violation doctrine and hostile work environment

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2021 | Employment Law |

Employees in Oregon and elsewhere expect the workplace to be an environment they are comfortable and safe in. Unfortunately, hostile work environments can occur, resulting in employees filing harassment or discrimination claims. In some cases, these can be difficult to prove, causing some employees to continue working in an environment that is hostile, uncomfortable and unlawful. However, if the behavior continues over a long period of time, there is something an employee can do.

Hostile work environment

When an employee claims workplace harassment or a hostile work environment, they are typically asserting the he or she has endured sexual or racial harassment or discrimination. When filing an action of these sorts, employees seek to correct the situation and address the damages caused. However, the unfortunate part of these cases is that they can be difficult to prove. This is especially true if the acts occurred more that 300 days before the claim is filed.

When filing a claim of harassment or hostile work environment, an employee is tasked with proving that the discriminatory acts were severe or pervasive. Hostile work environment claims often involve acts that can be pinpointed to a particular date, such as the failure to promote or hire. In contrast, a harassment claims will often involve a series of events that when considered in the aggregate would constitute a hostile work environment.

The continuing violation doctrine

When pursuing a harassment or discrimination action, the claim must be filed within 180 or 300 days from the unlawful act. Because a series of events are often needed to prove that the acts were either severe or pervasive, this might mean going back further than the 180 or 300 day timeframe. This is where the continuing violation doctrine can be valuable. This asserts that so long as one act falls within this time period, then the entire period of a hostile work environment can be considered in the matter.

Confronting a hostile work environment is not easy, but it is a right that employees have. It can feel intimidating, especially when an employee is filing a claim against a supervisor; however, this does not alter the unlawfulness of the act. Thus, it is imperative that employees not only understand their rights when it comes to harassment and discrimination action, but also note their options when such acts continue even after a claim has been filed.

 

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