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Sexual Harassment Law Firm

Have you suffered severe or pervasive sexual harassment at work?

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Have you been subjected to unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature affecting the terms or conditions of your employment?

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Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, PC 
sexual harassment law firm

This Virginia sexual harassment law firm is fighting to make the workplace safe from sexual harassment.  Our sexual harassment attorneys have successfully represented sexual harassment victims.  Choosing a sexual harassment lawyer is an important decision.  Let us assist you in putting together your case, to file your Title VII claim and to file suit for sexual harassment in Virginia.  We represent victims of sexual harassment.  We negotiate and if necessary litigate sexual harassment claims!

The Right To Be Free From Sex Discrimination in the Workplace

Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause both provide a public employee a right to be free from sex discrimination by their employer. Wilcox v. Lyons, 970 F.3d 452, 457-58 (4th Cir. 2020).

While sexual harassment may take many forms, “two basic varieties” have been identified, namely,

  • harassment that creates an offensive environment (‘condition of work harassment‘) and
  • harassment in which a supervisor demands sexual consideration in exchange for job benefits (‘quid pro quo‘).” 



Hostile Work Environment Based on Sex

To establish a prima facie case for hostile work environment sexual harassment under Title VII, the plaintiff must prove the relevant conduct was: (1) unwelcome; (2) based on the plaintiff’s sex; (3) sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the plaintiff’s conditions of employment and create an abusive work environment; and (4) imputable to the employer. Roberts v. Glenn Industrial Group, Inc., 998 F.3d 111, 117 (4th Cir. 2021).
Webster v. Chesterfield Cty. Sch. Bd., 38 F.4th 404, 410 (4th Cir. 2022)

Element 1 - "Unwelcome"

Plain and simple – the conduct has to be consensual and unwelcome. 

Element 2 - "Based on Plaintiff's Sex"

On way that a plaintiff can prove this element to to establish that the offending conduct would not have occurred but for her sex. See Hoyle v. Freightliner, LLC, 650 F.3d 321, 331 (4th Cir. 2011)  The conduct need not be “motivated by sexual desire” or sexual intent to satisfy this element, however, it does need to have been conducted “in such sex-specific and derogatory terms . . . as to make it clear that the harasser is motivated by general hostility to the presence of women in the workplace.” Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 80, 118 S. Ct. 998, 140 L. Ed. 2d 201 (1998). The critical question is therefore “whether members of one sex are exposed to disadvantageous terms or conditions of employment to which members of the other sex are not exposed.” Id.

Element 3 - "Severe or Pervasive"

To determine whether conduct qualifies as severe or pervasive, the court looks to the totality of the circumstances and consider:

  • “the frequency of the discriminatory conduct;
  • its severity;
  • whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and
  • whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.

Mosby-Grant v. City of Hagerstown, 630 F.3d 326, 335 (4th Cir. 2010)

The Fourth Circuit holds a high bar for this element, requiring that the plaintiff meet both an objective and subjective test, EOC v. Central Wholesalers, Inc., 573 F.3d 167, 175 (4th Cir. 2009), identifying situations that a reasonable jury might find to be “so out of the ordinary” that it qualifies as severe or pervasive. EEOC v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., 521 F.3d 306, 315-16 (4th Cir. 2008).

For the subjective prong, “the testimony of the complaining witnesses” is sufficient. EEOC v. R&R Ventures, 244 F.3d 334, 339 (4th Cir. 2001). 

For the objective prong, a plaintiff must show that “‘a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position’ would have found the environment objectively hostile or abusive.” Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., 521 F.3d at 315 (quoting Oncale, 523 U.S. at 81 and 82).

Element 4 - "Imputable to the Employer"

An employer may be held liable for a hostile work environment “if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take effective action to stop it by responding with remedial action reasonably calculated to end the harassment.” Pryor v. United Air Lines, Inc., 791 F.3d 488, 498 (4th Cir. 2015). But if an employer takes action that results in the “cessation of the complained of conduct, liability must cease as well.” Spicer v. Commonwealth of Va., Department of Corrections, 66 F.3d 705, 711 (4th Cir. 1995); see also EEOC v. Xerxes Corp., 639 F.3d 658, 669-70 (4th Cir. 2011). Webster v. Chesterfield Cty. Sch. Bd., 38 F.4th 404, 415 (4th Cir. 2022)


Quid Pro Quo - Employer demanding Sex

An advantage to the plaintiff in a quid pro quo case is that where the alleged harasser is her supervisor, she does not have to prove under Title VII that the employer knew or should have known of the harassment. Okoli v. City of Baltimore, 648 F.3d 216, 224 n.9 (4th Cir. 2011). A disadvantage to an offensive environment theory is that the harassment must be shown to be “sufficiently severe or pervasive.”  Id. at 226. “Simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious)” do not meet this test. Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 788, 118 S. Ct. 2275, 141 L. Ed. 2d 662 (1998) 


Element 1 - "Unwelcome Conduct of a Sexual Nature Based upon Sex"

To satisfy a claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment, an employee must show (1) that she was subjected to unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature based upon her sex, 

Element 2 - "Effects Tangible Aspect of Employment"

The employee’s reaction to the harassment affected tangible aspects of the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

Element 3 - "Express or Implied Condition"

The acceptance or rejection of the harassment must be an express or implied condition to the receipt of a job benefit or cause of a tangible job detriment to create liability.  Further, as in typical disparate treatment cases, the employee must prove that she was deprived of a job benefit which she was otherwise qualified to receive because of the employer’s use of a prohibited criterion in making the employment decision.  Okali, 648 F.3d at 222

McDonnell Douglas Burden Shifting Analysis

If a plaintiff makes a prima facie showing of these elements in opposition to summary judgment, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate reason for the adverse employment action. If the employer satisfies its burden, the burden returns to the plaintiff to establish that the employer’s proffered reason is pretextual.  McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 804, 93 S. Ct. 1817, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668 (1973).

Hess v. Buchanan Cty. Pub. Serv. Auth., No. 1:20CV00062, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76535, at *8 (W.D. Va. Apr. 27, 2022)



The materials are prepared for information purposes only.  The materials are not legal advice.  You should not act upon the information without seeking the advice of an attorney.  Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship.


Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C.
105 S 1st Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 783-2000
(804) 783-2002 (d))
(804) 783-2105 fax

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