Court: Just 3 days of harassment can indeed create a hostile work environment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Usually, courts considering whether an employee worked in a hostile environment look at a period of weeks, months or years to assess whether the alleged har­assment was severe and pervasive enough to become truly hostile.

But sometimes just a few days will do the trick.

Recent case: Aimee worked for a medical clinic. Over a three-day period, a new doctor, who was her supervisor while they worked the same shift, engaged in conduct she took as sexual harassment.

He rubbed her neck and gave her prescription drugs for a headache. But he also urged her to take more than a therapeutic dose, tried to get her to lie down after taking the drugs and commented on her body and legs.

Over the course of the three days, he generally kept up a constant stream of suggestive talk.

She complained to management—and was terminated shortly after for alleged poor performance. She sued, claiming she had endured a sexually hostile environment.

The court said her case could go to trial based on just three days of alleged hostility. It also chastised the clinic for not having a formal harassment policy, an employee handbook or any simple way for employees to complain about harassment. Nor did it appear the clinic had done anything to prevent harassment in the first place. (Fox v. Premier Immediate Medical Care, No. 10-4516, ED PA, 2012)

Final note: Don’t have a sexual harassment policy and training program? That’s practically begging to be sued.

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