If you are a public employer, you know how hard it is to punish an employee. Now the California Court of Appeal has made it a little easier by overturning a Civil Service Commission decision that merely slapped a harasser on the wrist.
Now it’s clear that government employers have to take serious measures to end harassment in the workplace.
Recent case: Santa Cruz County Correctional Officer Diana Holland complained about her supervisor, who allegedly harassed her on her first day on the job.
The supervisor, a sergeant, was told that he should not talk to Holland during the investigation. Instead, he called her on her cell phone three times demanding a meeting. They then met for three hours in his car. According to Holland, he further harassed her during that meeting.
The supervisor was then demoted to deputy sheriff. He appealed to the Civil Service Commission, and it overturned the demotion.
The county appealed, arguing that it could not effectively deal with sexual harassment if supervisors could persuade the Civil Service Commission to overturn their discipline. The court agreed and reinstated the earlier punishment. (County of Santa Cruz v. Civil Service Commission, No. H032222, California Court of Appeal, 6th Appellate Division, 2009)
Final note: Remember, you have an obligation to ensure employees work in an environment free from sexual harassment. Don’t be afraid to punish harassers if, after an investigation, you conclude that harassment took place. Warn them that further harassment is also insubordination and grounds for discharge.
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