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When employee files harassment complaint, document efforts to help her deal with aftermath

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

When an employee complains about sexual harassment, the aftermath can be tough. First, there’s an investigation and the anxiety waiting for a final decision. Co-workers may side with the alleged harasser and shun the complaining employee. He or she may even have trouble completing work assignments because of stress.

How you respond to problems like those may mean the difference between winning a retaliation lawsuit and losing.

Recent case: Claudia Fercello complained to a manager that her immediate supervisor had been sexually harassing her. The employer investigated and kept the two apart while the investigation moved forward. Then the alleged harasser quit.

Meanwhile, Fercello was having some work problems and received an interim review that was less than glowing. However, she was also told she had a chance to improve and received information on dealing with stress if she felt she needed help.

Later, Fercello quit and sued, alleging she had been retaliated against.

But the court dismissed her case after the employer showed all the efforts it made to help her through the investigation and aftermath. For example, Fercello had received a preferred parking space so that she could avoid the alleged harasser and had been given extra time to complete work assignments because of concern about her reaction to the investigation. (Fercello v. County of Ramsey, No. 09-2587, 8th Cir., 2010)

Final note: Giving the victim the benefit of the doubt was a smart move in this case.

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