Employees are entitled to work in a harassment-free environment. Employers are supposed to make sure that harassment doesn’t happen—and stop it if it does.
But sometimes, the employee complaining the loudest may actually be part of the problem. If that’s the case, the responsible thing to do is to stop all the harassment, from all the participants.
Just make sure you keep good records because chances are, someone will sue.
Recent case: Jacqueline Martinez is an attorney who worked for Rapidigm as manager of immigration services. The company eventually discharged her when it decided to outsource its visa application process to a law firm.
After that happened, she sued, alleging she had worked in a sexually hostile environment.
As evidence, she pointed to several instances involving a male co-worker. He apparently once commented, when Martinez was wearing a sleeveless top, that she was “enforcing her Second Amendment . . . right to bare arms.” On another occasion, he apparently commented that if Martinez was going to hire such “good-looking women,” he “would have kept the couch.” She also overheard sexual comments about another female attorney at a Christmas party.
Rapidigm came to court with an armful of evidence that Martinez had engaged in the same kind of commentary—or worse. It also introduced copies of what the court characterized as “explicit, obscene and shocking” e-mails Martinez apparently sent to colleagues throughout the company. In fact, there were over 150 pages of such material.
The court said that even if the “harassment” she had suffered was severe enough to meet the hostile environment standard, it was clear that it could not possibly have offended Martinez, given her own participation. The court dismissed her claim. (Martinez v. Rapidigm, No. 07-2274, 3rd Cir., 2008)