When an employee complains she is being harassed, that’s protected activity that cannot be punished. Likewise, complaining that a co-worker is being harassed is protected activity.
But it’s not protected activity if an employee complains that someone not connected with the employer is being harassed.
Recent case: John worked for Upshur County as a jailer. When his wife said two county workers made sexual comments to her, he complained.
Shortly after, he was fired. John sued, alleging he had been terminated in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment directed at his wife. He argued that his complaint was protected activity under Title VII.
The court disagreed. It pointed out that John’s wife wasn’t an employee; therefore any harassment she experienced wasn’t covered by Title VII. The case was dismissed. (Rose v. Upshur County, No. 6:11-CV-263, ED TX, 2012)
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