If an employee chooses to return to work in a hostile environment, that makes it much harder to successfully sue for harassment.
Recent case: George, who is black, had a long career with Yellow Transportation, spread over two stints. He left the company in 2001 and returned in 2006, working until 2008.
He sued, claiming that he had experienced a hostile work environment for years. He said he regularly saw graffiti featuring racial slurs in the workplace. However, most of the examples he cited occurred during his earlier stint with the company.
The court said the break in employment meant George could not use those earlier examples to prove hostility. That was true even though someone who had worked continuously for the company would have been able to do so. It tossed out George’s case. (Brooks, et al., v. YTI, No. 3:06-CV-1566, ND TX, 2013)
- Don't editorialize about merits of employee complaints
- No need to investigate harassment complaints clearly not covered by anti-discrimination laws
- Assume that hostile work environment claims under ADEA will fly
- Document all efforts to investigate complaints
- Pattern of strict enforcement helps win harassment cases