Clean up workplace, or risk class-Action suit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

There is power in numbers, and when a group of women all experience the same sort of harassment, it takes just one to find an attorney. She will then try to persuade the others to join in, making for a much more compelling story in court. A jury is more likely to believe several women who say they experienced the same thing than one woman’s story.

The best approach is to take every complaint seriously—and check to see if there are other women who feel the same way. Then fix the problem pronto.

Recent case: Six women sued transportation logistics giant C.H. Robinson Worldwide (CHRW), based in Eden Prairie, MN, for sexual harassment they said they suffered in branch offices in Burr Ridge and Willowbrook, IL.

The women claim that more than 55 of the 65 employees in the offices were men, and many of them habitually viewed pornography on their computers, commenting on the material and inviting others to see it. The women further claim the men made lewd and derogatory comments about female co-workers and job applicants, frequently commenting on their bodies. One of the women said she was not invited on a business trip so the men could go to a strip club with clients.

CHRW moved for summary judgment, saying the conduct was only “occasional vulgar banter, tinged with sexual innuendo, of coarse and boorish workers.”

The judge was unimpressed, noting that one plaintiff identified “multiple instances of obscene language and pornographic pictures which male co-workers specifically directed at her or specifically asked plaintiff to view.”

All six women will get a chance to get even with a jury trial. (Young, et al., v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, No. 06-C-1081, ND IL, 2007)

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