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And that vastly increases the chances that a jury will hold the company liable.
Recent case: Thelma Alaniz and three other women filed lawsuits against their former employer, alleging that their boss had sexually harassed them. The women had all worked for a doctor who ran clinics specializing in osteoporosis and arthritis treatment.
Alaniz told the clinic’s personnel director that the doctor had sexually harassed her by rubbing her thighs and knees, grabbing her around her waist and kissing her. Then she filed an EEOC complaint. Within days, the doctor ordered the personnel director to discipline Alaniz and then fire her.
The next apparent target was the personnel director herself, who claimed the doctor tried to get her to sit on his lap. She quit. Then two more women made similar allegations.
The court let all four plaintiffs try the case jointly. A jury found the doctor liable and he appealed, alleging that it had been prejudicial for the jury to hear all four accounts together.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down his appeal. It reasoned that the women’s stories showed a pattern of behavior. That justified trying the cases jointly. (Alaniz, et al., v. Zamora-Quezada, et al., No. 07-40325, 5th Cir., 2009)
- EBSA says employer took liberties with retirement funds
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- Employees filed job-discrimination complaints with EEOC in near-record numbers last year
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- Set policies, establish clear process for employees to report sexual harassment