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Standards for Proving Harassment Lowered in Montgomery County, MD


Bill rejects the “severe and pervasive” standard in Title VII

The County Council for Montgomery County, MD unanimously voted to revise its Human Rights Law relating to harassment in the workplace.  Bill 14-20, enacted on October 6, 2020, rejects the commonly used “severe and pervasive” standard applied under Title VII and replaces it with the following: 

“The term “harassment” in subsection (a) includes verbal, written, or physical conduct, whether or not the conduct would be considered sufficiently severe or pervasive under precedent applied to harassment claims…” and

“A reasonable victim of discrimination would consider the conduct to be more than a petty slight, trivial inconvenience, or minor annoyance.”

The threshold for proving discrimination is the same as in Title VII in that the conduct occurs when:

  • That “submission to the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment,”
  • “submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual,” or 
  • “The conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating a working environment that is perceived by the victim to be abusive or hostile.”

The bill becomes effective on January 15, 2021.

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.