States, as a rule, model their own laws regarding sexual harassment or other acts of discrimination on similar federal laws. Sexual harassment laws in Tennessee offer state-level protections for victims of sexual harassment that are based on Courts in Tennessee interpret the state Human Rights Act similarly to the federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Tennessee Human Rights Act and Sexual Harassment Laws in Tennessee
The Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA) prohibits discriminatory practices. Under the law sexual harassment is considered a discriminatory practice based on the individual’s sex. The THRA provides that it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to “fail or refuse to hire or discharge any person or otherwise to discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of such individual’s race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.”
The Tennessee Human Rights Commission has adopted the federal regulation defining sexual harassment. Under the adopted rule, sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- Submission to the conduct is made a term or condition of employment,
- Submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions, or
- The conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
Types of Sexual Harassment Claims Under Tennessee Law
Tennessee law recognizes two types of sexual harassment claims. The first, a “quid pro quo” claim occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances or requests for sexual favors in exchange for receiving job benefits.
The second type of claim involves what is referred to as a hostile work environment claim. In this type of case, an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment; the harassment affected a “term, condition, or privilege” of employment; and the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to respond with prompt and appropriate corrective action.