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Don’t delay, even for one day! Assault allegations demand response ASAP

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

Here’s a reminder for all supervisors and managers: Tell them they must spring into action immediately if an employee reports some form of sexual assault.

Any touching, grabbing or other offensive physical conduct is serious until proven otherwise. It must be immediately reported to HR. There’s no waiting allowed—not even one day. Otherwise, a repeat performance the next day may create liability.

Recent case: Sheila reported to her supervisor that a co-worker had tried to sexually assault her. The next day, the co-worker allegedly again touched her in an intimate place.

She sued, alleging she had been sexually harassed.

The case was initially dismissed because the lower court assumed a few hours’ delay after the report wasn’t enough to make the employer liable. Sheila appealed.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and reinstated the lawsuit. It concluded that a jury should hear the case and decide whether the overnight delay was an unreasonable response to an allegation of physical sexual assault. (Davis v. City of Charlottesville School Board, et al., No. 12-1646, 4th Cir., 2012)

Final note: Have an HR rapid response team ready to act in any emergency, including potential sexual assault. They should make sure that the alleged victim is immediately separated from the alleged assailant and contact local law enforcement if necessary. Err on the side of caution anytime an employee reports that she was groped, kissed or otherwise physically touched in a way that appears sexual.

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