Here’s good news for employers that try to do the right thing by fixing harassment they believe did in fact occur: Your liability will be limited if an employee fails to complain to the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within one year of the last act of harassment.
Recent case: After Irene Trovato complained that her boss was sexually harassing her, she got a new supervisor. The harassment stopped.
More than a year later, Trovato filed a sexual harassment claim with the DFEH. But the case was dismissed because she admitted she had not experienced any additional harassment for more than a year. That was despite the fact that the court acknowledged that her credible accusations indicated she had been sexually harassed earlier. (Trovato v. Beckman Coulter, No. G042940, Court of Appeal of California, 4th Appellate District, 2011)
Final note: Employers that want to put an incident of sexual harassment behind them should make note of the exact day the problem was fixed. That can be the day they fired a supervisor or transferred the victim.
Then follow up. Check back with the victim regularly. Document the interaction carefully so you can later show the problem was resolved and stayed resolved. That way, if she later says she was harassed again, you will be able to counter her claim with specific information.
Plus, follow-up shows that you’re serious about stopping harassment and preventing retaliation.
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