In North Carolina, it's not just sexual harassment lawsuits brought under federal law that you have to worry about. Your organization could face state tort law claims, such as “intentional infliction of emotional distress” or “negligent supervision” if an employee’s behavior is extreme enough and
That can be a bigger problem than the federal claim. Why? Monetary damages are capped under federal law (Title VII). But state tort claims like intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision don’t have caps.
That’s all the more reason to establish a strong anti-harassment policy, train your employees regularly and thoroughly investigate all complaints.
Recent case: EDS employee Caryn Testa progressed up the corporate ladder until, she said, a new male supervisor propositioned her, left her suggestive voice mails and got angry when she refused his advances. She reported this to HR but got no response.
After being transferred, Testa eventually quit following two years of being ostracized by managers. She sued under North Carolina tort law, alleging infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision. The court said she had enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Under North Carolina law, persistent sexual advances and remarks that cause an emotional or mental condition diagnosed by a medical professional can be extreme enough to be the infliction of emotional distress. An employer’s failure to stop the harassment can make the company liable. Plus, failing to rein in the harasser can be deemed negligent supervision. (Testa v. EDS, No. 3:07-CV-165, WD NC, 2007)
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