Here’s how to end a co-worker sexual harassment case when your organization decides not to discharge the alleged harasser:
After you explain to the complaining employee what action you took, make sure she knows what to do if anything else happens. Let her know she should come directly to HR with any concerns, to report additional harassment or retaliation or simply to ask questions. Be sure to provide clear contact information that makes it easy for the employee to act.
Then note the conversation or keep a copy of the written explanation you provided in the employee’s file.
If you do those things, employees who come back later and say they were still harassed will have a hard time winning their cases. That’s because the court will look at how easy you made the process.
Recent case: Ta-Juana Arrington worked for a children’s hospital and got involved in a steady stream of workplace conflicts. One involved a male co-worker who was hired to replace another co-worker whom Arrington had complained about and had fired. Arrington said the new co-worker had grabbed and sexually harassed her.
HR launched a sexual harassment investigation and concluded that Arrington and the co-worker had at least engaged in sexual banter. Both were warned to stop the sex talk, and the co-worker was warned that sexual harassment was against hospital rules and could lead to discharge. HR then explained to Arrington that she should report any further problems directly to HR.
When Arrington was later fired, she sued, alleging the sexual harassment continued. But the court tossed out her claim, pointing out that she never reported the subsequent harassment directly to HR. (Arrington v. La Rabida Children’s Hospital, No. 06-C-5129, ND IL, 2008)
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