Even if you think an employee’s complaint about alleged harassment doesn’t have legal merit, it makes sense to take steps to stop the offending behavior anyway.
Otherwise, if the employee perceives that co-workers are targeting him for more harassment, he can quit and sue. Perhaps the co-workers’ behavior isn’t technically illegal, but increasing the activity could amount to “retaliation” for his initial complaint, thus creating a retaliation lawsuit.
Reason: A court may see the increased activity as an effort to force the accuser to quit. That’s retaliation for making a good-faith complaint.
Recent case: Wallace Borski’s co-workers in an all-male office liked to pass around sexually explicit cartoons and ads. He took offense and complained to .
Right away, co-workers increased the offensive material sent to Borski. Soon after, Borski quit out of frustration and filed a sexual harassment lawsuit.
A federal court ordered a trial. It concluded that circulating the original material didn’t amount to sexual harassment since it didn’t target Borski because of his sex. But once he complained and the campaign to expose him to offensive material picked up steam, he had a retaliation case.
In effect, by complaining, Borski could “set up” his tormentors. All he had to do was wait for their behavior to accelerate. (Borski v. Staten Island Rapid Transit, No. 04-CV-3614, ED NY, 2006)
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