Court: Even ‘Unintended Harassment’ Can Be Illegal

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

by Mindy Chapman, Esq.

Try this on for gross: A female employee gains access to her boss’s e-mail account without permission and discovers a vulgar e-mail sent by a male co-worker to the boss. The subject of the e-mail: her genitals.

So, does this count as a hostile work environment, even though the e-mail was not sent to the woman and she was never intended to read it? Yes it does, the 10th Circuit court ruled.

“We have never held, nor would we, that to be subjected to a hostile work environment the discriminatory conduct must be both directed at the victim and intended to be received by the victim,” said the court. “The fact that (she) was not the intended recipient of the e-mail is of no consequence.”

Case in point: Marla Segovia worked as a sales manager at a New Mexico auto dealership. Following a confrontation with a co-worker, Segovia went into her boss’s e-mail account without permission and stumbled upon a sexu...(register to read more)

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