Most organizations realize they have to take reasonable steps to stamp out sexual harassment. Their efforts — creating a comprehensive policy, letting employees know where to turn, investigating and resolving complaints and punishing harassers — have probably done a lot to wipe out the most blatant and outrageous examples of sexual harassment.
But what about more subtle harassment? Does your organization have to worry that errant looks or the occasional “not-in-the-best-taste” comment will lead to a lawsuit?
The answer is “no.”
That’s true even if the employee alleging harassment comes with his or her own baggage and is more sensitive than the average employee to harassment cues and innuendos. If the conduct isn’t pervasive, hostile and abusive to ordinary employees, it isn’t harassment.
Recent case: Postal employee Ronelle Wilkinson complained that a co-worker was sexually harassing her. She sued, alleging that the co-worker stared at her, sometimes followed her as she made her work rounds, and once touched her lightly on the forearm as she passed by him.
Wilkinson’s attorneys said the co-worker made Wilkinson uncomfortable because she had been stalked for two years back in the 1990s and was still on anti-anxiety medication. Wilkinson apparently was very sensitive to sub-
tle cues and thought she was being harassed.
But the court rejected her claim. It reasoned that an employee who is hypersensitive can’t use his or her subjective reaction as evidence there was harassment if other objective observers wouldn’t react the same way. Otherwise, employers could be liable for conduct they and everyone else couldn’t pick up on. The court refused to delve that deeply into employees’ psyches. (Wilkinson v. Potter, No. 06-30921, 5th Cir., 2007)
Like what you've read? ...Republish it and share great business tips!
Attention: Readers, Publishers, Editors, Bloggers, Media, Webmasters and more...
We believe great content should be read and passed around. After all, knowledge IS power. And good business can become great with the right information at their fingertips. If you'd like to share any of the insightful articles on BusinessManagementDaily.com, you may republish or syndicate it without charge.
The only thing we ask is that you keep the article exactly as it was written and formatted. You also need to include an attribution statement and link to the article.
" This information is proudly provided by Business Management Daily.com: http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/3167/hypersensitive-employee-doesnt-get-special-protection "
- NYSHRL allows individual liability claims for 'Conspiracy to retaliate'
- Going-out-of-business sale price: $80,000 for bias
- Secure tax break for past disability accommodations
- When employees foul up, feel free to tailor your response to fit the circumstances
- Don't hesitate to punish female harassers, too