Sexually Harassed by the Boss? Take It Up the Chain
In this case, complaining to the harasser-boss was enough. But it doesn't always work that way.
By Sherry KarabinMarch 24, 2014
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An employee is being sexually harassed by her manager and asks him to stop. The manager promises to resign if she doesn’t turn him in to human resources. He doesn’t resign. Instead the employee leaves and files a sexual harassment case against the company and the manager. Eric B. Meyer explores on The Employer Handbook whether simply complaining to the harasser is enough to win the case.
Meyer says even if a sexual harassment claim is deemed valid, the employer can still win if it shows “it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior, and that the plaintiff/employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.”
In this case, the plaintiff was able to prove that she was being sexually harassed, Meyer says. The Idaho federal district court did question her decision not to complain to anyone other than the harasser given the company’s policy that encouraged the reporting of such issues. However, Meyer says, the court let the case go to trial.
Meyer recommends employers review their antiharassment policies, perhaps changing them to require that victims and witnesses of sexual harassment complain to human resources and a manager who is not the harasser.
In the Goulston & Storrs 2017 General Counsel Survey, fifteen percent of GCs or in-house counsel say they have the most difficulty identifying exposures, and this emerging risk is reshaping their role.
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