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Company photos may help clarify harassment relationship

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

If your organization is like most, you probably have a few company social events like a summer picnic and a holiday party. You may even have an official photographer taking shots for the company newsletter or web site. But have you considered keeping a photo file just in case you are sued?

Here’s why that might be a good idea: Many harassment claims center on supposed intimidation and humiliation employees claim they suffer at the hands of co-workers or supervisors. Photos and video can be powerful evidence to dispel such claims if they show the accuser relaxed, happy or acting in ways inconsistent with claimed discomfort.

Recent case: Dolores Ammons-Lewis claimed that over several years she suffered unwelcome physical contact and verbal comments at work. One of her co-workers allegedly propositioned her. She eventually got into a shouting match with him and scratched his face when he tried to put his arms around her neck. Co-workers separated the two and called police.

Ammons-Lewis sued, alleging sexual harassment. She told the court that she had emphatically not had a personal relationship with the co-worker. That’s when someone remembered photos from a social event showing the two together. The court allowed the photos as possible evidence that Ammons-Lewis had misstated her relationship with the co-worker she said harassed her.

In the end, the jury concluded there was no harassment. (Ammons-Lewis v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, No. 05-3132, 7th Cir., 2007) 

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