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Put reasonable limits on who can take complaints

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in Compensation and Benefits,Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Two female supermarket employees complained to a district manager that their store manager had sexually harassed them. The district manager promptly investigated the incidents, then demoted and transferred the alleged offender.

But it didn't stop there. The women then sued for sexual harassment, saying that three midlevel managers knew about the groping problem earlier but did nothing.

A court threw out the case, saying the women's informal conversations with those three managers weren't enough to put the employer on notice about the problem.

The company escaped liability because it had a clear policy in its employee handbooks that directed workers to report offensive conduct to one of three people: the store manager, the district manager or the division personnel manager. (Madray v. Publix Supermarkets Inc., No. 98-5802, 11th Cir., 2000)Advice: In your sexual harassment policy, identify the titles of company officers with whom an employee can file a complaint. You can limit your liability by restricting the number of officials who can receive complaints. But make sure the officials are easily accessible and don't make the list too short. At least two contacts should be included.

Why set limits? If your policy lets workers complain to any manager, you could be liable if an untrained manager receives an informal complaint and fails to act.

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