A former graphic designer for Corporate Graphics Commercial is suing the Mankato company, claiming he was fired for reporting anti-gay harassment by co-workers.
Paul Maloney, who is gay, says he reported harassment to his supervisors several times, but they dismissed his concerns. He claims the company’s HR director told him, “You are the cause of animosity among managers and it’s making the work process difficult. We are done here.” Then the company fired Maloney.
Corporate Graphics claims it didn’t know Maloney’s sexual orientation when it fired him, and that therefore it couldn’t have discriminated against him on that basis.
That contradicts Maloney’s tales of at least two meetings to discuss co-worker harassment. He says he met with his supervisor and the HR director to discuss harassment claims in November 2008. His complaint also states that the HR director determined his claims were baseless in January 2009.
Maloney says he reported more harassment in June 2009 and was called to a meeting on June 19 where he was terminated. Maloney filed a complaint with the state Department of Human Rights, which investigated and found no criminal wrongdoing.
Maloney is seeking a jury trial, but Corporate Graphics has asked for a judge to hear the case.
Advice: Always thoroughly document harassment allegations and your response to them. That way, evidence will be available if you’re ever sued. In this case, Corporate Graphics alleges it investigated Maloney’s complaint. If it can show it made a practice of investigating all harassment allegations, that will cast doubt on Maloney’s credibility.
On the other hand, no documentation of any kind shows poor record-keeping, and that always works against an employer.
- Make managers aware of potential personal liability
- Workers have two years to sue under PHRA
- Handle supervisor harassment with a good policy, timely investigation and independent review
- When employee alleges management bias, don't blindly accept the boss's denial
- Let investigation guide harassment punishment