Your sexual harassment policy may not be worth the paper it’s printed on if doesn’t spell out an alternative reporting option for employees who allege they were harassed by their supervisors. You must allow employees to bypass their bosses.
Recent case: Chastity and three other call center employees filed a lawsuit against FedEx, alleging that their supervisor had sexually harassed them, touched them and even coerced sexual acts from them. None was fired or demoted, and all continued working for the company despite the harassment.
FedEx wanted the case dismissed because the women had ignored its sexual harassment reporting policy. It required employees to report all sexual harassment to “or Human Resources.” It did not, however, specify that employees allegedly being harassed by an immediate supervisor could bypass that supervisor and report the problem higher up the chain of command.
The court said the women were excused from reporting the conduct because FedEx’s policy was flawed, and the women testified they had been afraid they would lose their jobs. (Shields, et al., v. Federal Express, No. 10-4494, 6th Cir., 2012)
Final note: It didn’t help that FedEx already knew the supervisor had sent sexually explicit messages using company computers.