Sometimes, workplace rules conspire to give a second chance to a problem employee with a history of harassment or intimidation. Consider, for example, a public-sector employee who was reinstated because the disciplinary process was handled improperly.
If you don’t carefully monitor the second-chance worker’s behavior, chances are the inappropriate conduct will rear its ugly head again. Then, in addition to harassment and discrimination liabilities, you may be on the hook for negligent supervision, too. That’s what happened in the following case.
Recent case: Richard Sheppard worked as a corrections officer and was disciplined for name-calling, intimidation and other racial, sexual and ethnically offensive conduct. He was known in the prison as intimidating and hot-tempered. But the corrections department had to reinstate him because the state did not follow due process procedures required for disciplining public servants.
He then began sexually harassing Angela Hoag, a prison therapist. Meanwhile, he was getting good, none of which included an assessment of his commitment to a harassment-free environment. Nor did those evaluations make any reference to Sheppard’s previous behavior.
After Hoag became depressed and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, she sued, alleging negligent retention. The court said her case could go forward, based in part on the obvious lack of serious effort to closely supervise a known harasser. (Hoag v. Brown, et al., No. A-5537-05T2, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, 2007)
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