Here’s a little employment law tip: don’t let an employee who was found to be harassing employees back into the company or organization, even as a volunteer. Fiona Ong of Shawe Rosenthal explains that though this may be a “no-brainer,” it actually happened in a recent case.
In Frias v. Spencer, tried in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, a manager was terminated after a history of acting inappropriately toward many people, but in particular one employee, who even complained to her supervisors about her safety.
Five months after the harasser was terminated, the original complainant saw him back at the company and was told he was there as a volunteer. She then left work and filed an internal complaint, citing a hostile work environment and stating the manager’s return was “the last harassment (she) could humanly, emotionally and physically endure,” reports Ong. She also filed a suit against her employer.
“The employer asked the court to dismiss the claims, arguing that permitting the manager to return as a volunteer was not any kind of employment action on which a claim of discrimination can be based,” writes Ong. But the court didn’t agree, saying there doesn’t need to be an employment action for there to be a hostile work environment, and found sufficient evidence to send the case to trial, she says.