Does your company’s sexual harassment policy include a provision that tells employees they must promptly report alleged sexual harassment? If it doesn’t, consider adding such a clause. The wording may help if an employee waits to report that her supervisor was allegedly harassing her.
Remember, the only defense to supervisor harassment (that isn’t accompanied by an adverse employment action like discharge, demotion or the like) is to show you tried to prevent harassment and provided employees with a way to complain. An employee who unreasonably remains silent doesn’t have a case.
Recent case: Sabrina Jenkins went to work for MCG Health in Augusta as an accountant. Soon, she began a four-year sexual relationship with her boss. The two frequented strip clubs and apparently enjoyed a robust sex life at work, on the town and in hotels.
When Jenkins ended the relationship, she alleged harassment to the HR office.
Her boss was suspended pending an investigation and then resigned. But Jenkins still sued, alleging that some of the sex had not been consensual—including an incident that happened more than a year before she complained.
The court said the company wasn’t liable. Because the company harassment policy said employees should report harassment promptly, it concluded Jenkins hadn’t done enough to report her claim. There was no doubt that Jenkins knew about the policy, or that the company investigated claims. The employer was able to show it had a strong record of investigated and disciplined supervisors who had harassed employees—as it did in Jenkins’ case. The court dismissed her claim. (Jenkins v. MCG Health, No. CV0106-120, SD GA, 2008)
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