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Ignore sexual assault allegations, prepare to pay huge damages

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s a cautionary tale about ignoring a young employee’s plea for help and also ignoring her lawsuit later.

Both courses of action may cost dearly—in this case, well over a million dollars.

Recent case: For two years, beginning when she was 16 years old, a female nursing home employee was repeatedly raped at work. The culprit was a forty something co-worker who cornered the girl in a locked closet almost daily where he forced her to touch his genitals, perform oral sex and have intercourse.

The girl attempted suicide by taking an overdose of over-the-counter pain medication.

Her mother contacted the girl’s supervisor at the nursing home and explained what had happened. The supervisor did not believe the allegations and told her not to notify HR. The girl quit after learning that her assailant would still be working in her department.

She then sued, alleging that she had been sexually harassed and that the employer did nothing.

The nursing home never responded to the lawsuit. The judge ruled the girl’s allegations would be accepted as true and calculated the damages owed. The nursing home’s tab came to over $1.2 million, plus another $50,000 in punitive damages. (Lent v. Cortland Care Center, No. 5:13-CV-00942, ND NY, 2015)

Final note: Never ignore a lawsuit. Make sure there are methods in place to get a complaint to your attorneys. And make sure bosses understand that they must forward every single sexual harassment complaint to HR. It’s not up to supervisors to determine whether the complaint is legitimate or false.

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