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Vague comments and complaints aren’t protected

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law

On occasion, an employee may be too embarrassed to directly confront sexual harassment. Instead, she may complain to a supervisor about unspecified problems. If the complaints are vague and wouldn’t cause a reasonable person to understand the issue of sexual harassment, the employee will have a hard time winning a lawsuit.

Recent case: Penny Wilkie was a doctor for a federal agency until she quit and sued, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation.

She claimed a supervisor had come to her house, draped his naked body in a sheer red cloth and fallen asleep on her bed. But she had never mentioned this rather dramatic incident, although she made vague complaints about the supervisor to other bosses.

The court said that wasn’t good enough to support any subsequent retaliation claim. (Wilkie v. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 10-1916, 8th Cir., 2011)

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