Companies Can Be Held Liable For E-Harassment

Compiled By Michael A. Verespej The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that an employer can be liable for sexual harassment that occurs electronically -- even if the harassment occurs outside of the organization's direct communications system. The court ruled that Continental Airlines was liable for the harassment of a female pilot that occurred through comments made on an electronic bulletin board. The bulletin board served as a virtual community for the exchange of ideas by crew members. The court ruled that the harassment constituted a hostile work environment and awarded the pilot $1.6 million. The decision, says Stephen J. Cabot, chairman of the Labor and Employment Law Dept. at Harvey, Pennington, Cabot, Griffith & Renneisen Ltd., expands the definition of what constitutes a hostile work environment to include any company-sponsored electronic communications system -- even if those communications systems are outside of the scope of the organization's direct business communications network.

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