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Hiring consulting firm to work on site? That cuts your harassment liability

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s some good, sensible news. If you hire a consulting firm and that company works on site, you won’t be liable for harassment between consulting firm employees.

Recent case: Erica worked for a consulting firm, assigned to work with one of the firm’s owners at a medical center. Erica directed medical center employees but did not evaluate them.

Erica complained to the consulting firm’s HR office that the firm’s owner began making unwanted sexual ad­­vances and sent sexually suggestive texts. She also reported that another firm employee was being harassed.

After complaining, she was told to clear out her office. However, she remained on the payroll. Erica filed a sexual harassment complaint and settled the case a few months later.

Then she sued the medical center, claiming it, too, was responsible for the harassment.

The court nixed her claims. It was not convinced that Erica stepped over the line from on-site consultant to employee, given that she didn’t evaluate anyone or have any other direct responsibility for hiring or firing, nor was she paid by the medical center. (Plaso v. Bayonne Medical Center, No. 13-2565, 3rd Cir., 2014)

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