The manager of a Winston-Salem Dairy Queen restaurant thought he was getting rid of a problem employee when he fired Chastity Hill-Cox. His problems were only beginning.
The EEOC and Hill-Cox are suing Dairy Queen for sexual harassment, and it looks like the case will go to trial unless the fast-food chain agrees to settle.
The harassment allegedly started when a male employee began calling Hill-Cox gender-based epithets. She says she complained to the manager, but he took no action. The abuse allegedly continued, and got so bad that Hill-Cox’s mother called the police. When officers came to the restaurant, the manager fired Hill-Cox because she “was causing too many problems.”
That’s when she complained to the EEOC. Her sexual harassment lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Note: You can’t ignore sexual harassment, hoping it will just go away. Failing to investigate complaints only tends to encourage harassers. More important, when employees can show that their complaints did not prompt an investigation, that makes it almost impossible for employers to prevail in court.
Advice: Train supervisors and employees to prevent harassment and instruct managers how to address it when it occurs.
- In court, consistency is key: Prepare to justify all deviations from company rules
- Vague report of name-calling doesn't make you liable
- When employee claims co-worker harassment, investigate promptly, act reasonably
- Independent investigations are key to making decisions stick and avoiding retaliation claims
- OK to deny permanent job to marginal temp worker