If a victim of alleged sexual harassment waits months—or even a year or more—before complaining, you may wonder how serious her claim is. Don’t let your doubts affect how you handle the case.
In fact, the best way to protect your organization is to act quickly on all harassment complaints, no matter how improbable, minor or tardy they may seem. By immediately investigating the complaint and reaching a prompt conclusion, you cut liability for all but the worst supervisor or manager harassment.
Recent case: Linda Sardina worked for UPS. She followed the company’s sexual harassment policy and complained to—18 months after the alleged sexual harassment began. She claimed co-workers had made sexually suggestive and inappropriate comments and that a manager had called some female employees “office bitches.”
Immediately after learning about the comments, UPS agreed to transfer Sardina to another location with a different supervisor. Then she took a short medical leave for “emotional distress.”
But things didn’t go well under the new supervisor either. When he ordered Sardina to work a shift she didn’t like, she sued for harassment and retaliation.
The court tossed out her case. It reasoned that even if her former supervisor had harassed her, the company fixed the problem by granting her transfer request. Plus, the new supervisor couldn’t have retaliated since he didn’t know she had complained earlier. (Sardina v. United Parcel Service, No. 06-3517, 2nd Cir., 2007)
Final note: If you agree to transfer an employee to another supervisor, it’s a good idea to leave that supervisor in the dark about the underlying reason. That way, he or she can manage the employee without worrying that any disciplinary measures could be construed as retaliation for complaining about the earlier harassment.
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