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Investigate claims to tackle harassment head-on

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

When it comes to co-worker sexual harassment, it’s not enough to “fix” the problem by transferring the harasser. If you don’t also investigate the underlying complaint, expect a lawsuit when the harasser strikes again.

If management doesn’t take the behavior seriously, neither will the harasser, who may even be emboldened by a slap-on-the-wrist response.

Recent case: Janice Andreoli worked for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for 12 years before leaving on workers’ compensation due to post-traumatic stress disorder, which she claimed stemmed from the sexual harassment she suffered at the hands of a co-worker for most of her employment.

Andreoli claimed her co-worker commented constantly on the female anatomy in general, and Andreoli’s in particular. Her complaints to management went unanswered, even after the co-worker put his hands between Andreoli’s legs, stopping only after she screamed and scratched his arm.

Management thought it was over when the co-worker was transferred. However, no one ever conducted an investigation, nor was the co-worker required to undergo sexual harassment training. He continued to find ways to harass Andreoli, including trying to run her down with a car.

She sued, alleging DLA allowed her co-worker to create a sexually hostile environment. The 3rd Circuit ordered a jury trial. (Andreoli v. Gates, et al., No. 05-5417, 3rd Cir., 2007)

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