$1,000 Fine a Day Should Keep the Harassment Away

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Think you can close the book on an employment lawsuit once you’ve paid off the jury verdict? Think again. As this case show, the court can still have its claws around your organization’s throat for a long time … 

Case in Point: A few years ago, two teenagers working at an International House of Pancakes (IHOP) in Racine, Wis., filed sexual harassment claims with the EEOC. In turn, the EEOC brought a lawsuit in federal court against the local franchise. In 2009, the two employees won a verdict of $105,000.

But the court added another caveat to the verdict: It required the owners to post a notice of the jury verdict in a conspicuous location in all 17 of the franchise’s IHOP restaurants. The court intended to make sure other employees knew about the unacceptable behavior and the remedies available to them through the EEOC.

The owners refused to post the notice, claiming that doing so would cause “irreparable harm” to the franchise.

Result: Too bad, said the court. It held the owners in contempt of court and fined them $1,000 for each day the notices weren’t posted in all 17 locations.

“Posting notices in sexual harassment cases is important because the notices increase the odds that any victims of illegal activity will know their rights and that they can always complain to the EEOC,” says Jean Kamp, the EEOC’s associate regional attorney for Milwaukee. “We will not stand by while employers attempt to thwart that.” (EEOC v. Management Hospitality of Racine Inc., E.D. Wis., 5/31/11).

3 Lessons Learned…Without Going to Court

1. Post your anti-harassment policy. It’s more proactive to take this approach then to have to reactively post a notice with a sexual harassment verdict against you.

2. Stand post. Monitor the workplace for misconduct. The manager was sexually harassing teens. Someone ought to have caught that and immediately stopped it.

3. Post what the court tell you to post. Or, it will cost you big time. Individually, the courts and the EEOC are powerful entities. Together they are a superpower.

 

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