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Employers Must Provide Procedure for Harassment Complaints

Edwards v. Connecticut Department of Transportation, No. 3:97CV01046(GLG), 1998 WL 652098 (D.Conn. Sept. 17, 1998).

Plaintiff brought a Title VII race and gender discrimination claim against the defendant, alleging disparate treatment in terms of work assignments and also a hostile work environment. Plaintiff alleged that her co-workers were responsible for creating the hostile environment and that the DOT should be held liable. The District Court for the District of Connecticut held that Farragher and Ellerth apply only in circumstances where supervisory employees have engaged in the harassing behavior. Those cases are not directly applicable, where co-workers rather than supervisors are guilty of the harassing behavior. Employers can be held liable for harassment by co-workers only if they "provide no reasonable avenue for the complaint" or if they are aware of the discrimination and fail to take reasonable steps to eliminate it. DOT knew of the harassing behavior because plaintiff had complained to her supervisor. The Court therefore denied DOT's motion for summary judgment.

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