Lower-level supervisors sometimes fail to respond to sexual harassment complaints, even if they’re familiar with their company’s policies. Some may consider sexual harassment a less-than-serious problem. Others may simply not want to admit it’s a problem at all.
That’s where education comes in. Regularly remind all supervisors that the consequences of ignoring harassment complaints can be serious.
Recent case: Amy Hughes, who had once worked as an exotic dancer, started a new job with Goodrich as a shipping clerk. During her first two weeks on the job, she sometimes went outside for smoke breaks with co-workers. One of them asked her if she was an exotic dancer. Hughes asked him why he would ask such a rude question, and the co-worker responded it was because “you have big t—- and a nice a—, and the pants you wear.”
Hughes reported this to her new supervisor, who told her to ignore the comments and take her smoke breaks elsewhere.
Other co-workers propositioned Hughes and even grabbed her on one occasion, suggesting she should perform a sexual act on another co-worker.
She complained again and this time the company investigated. It fired one of the co-workers, who filed a union grievance. During that hearing, other managers at the company learned through the testimony that sexual comments were common. Still, no one saw fit to order more training.
Hughes quit and sued for sexual harassment.
The court said the case could go forward because Hughes’ first complaint had been ignored entirely, and the company did nothing to end future harassment even after it learned from others that sexual harassment was commonplace. (Hughes v. Goodrich, No. 3:08-CV-263, SD OH, 2010)
Final note: The fact that Hughes had once been an exotic dancer was no excuse for her co-workers’ behavior.
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