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Follow up with harassed employee to check for retaliation–and prevent future lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

When an employee complains about sexual harassment, protect yourself against a later retaliation lawsuit by following up with her. Your goal: To get her on record as experiencing no backlash, thus making it harder to sue for retaliation.

Recent case: Patricia complained to HR after a supervisor made a pass at her and then insulted her when she turned down his proposition to have sex. Apparently, Patricia was not tempted by his offer to “get drunk and do you.” The supervisor resigned.

Months later, Patricia was terminated. The company claimed she resigned, but she said she had been pressured to quit in retaliation for complaining about harassment. No one had followed up with her after she complained.

Eventually, the court concluded her claim didn’t warrant a trial, but not before her lawsuit had been litigated for several months. Had Patricia’s employer followed up, the case might have been tossed much sooner. (Milne v. Navigant Consulting, No. 08-Civ-8964, SD NY, 2012)

Advice: When an employee complains about harassment, follow up at regular intervals—30 days, six months and again one year after the complaint has been resolved.

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