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Document handling of vague harassment complaint

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Some employees who are being sexually harassed may be embarrassed or reluctant to talk about it. Rather than come out and say what happened, they beat around the bush. Smart employers document how they handle vague complaints—and take them just as seriously as other complaints.

Recent case: Stephanie worked as a radiology technologist on the night shift. When she was facing discipline for chatting on her cellphone while she was supposed to be working, her supervisor called her into a meeting and locked the door. There, according to Stephanie, he persuaded her to pull up her shirt and lift her bra to show that she was not “wired” with a recording device before he would discuss her discipline.

The supervisor then pulled her close and asked for a kiss, promising to drop disciplinary charges. She suggested a hug instead, but ended up being kissed.

Soon after, HR told Stephanie that her supervisor claimed she had flashed him. She countered that he had done something “horrific” to her, but wouldn’t provide any details. Pend­­ing an investigation, Stephanie was suspended. HR talked to the supervisor, who denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Stephanie apparently concluded it actually would be a good idea to wear a “wire” and began recording all her in­­teractions, including when she was working with patients. And Steph­­­­a­­nie filed an EEOC complaint that included details of the alleged harassment.

Then the supervisor committed suicide.

Stephanie was fired for recording patient conversations, a violation of federal law. She sued, alleging her short suspension during the investigation was retaliation for lodging a complaint.

The court disagreed. It noted that at the time she had offered no specifics. It said that under the circumstances, the employer acted reasonably. (Crockett v. Mission Hospital, No. 1:11-CV-95, WD NC, 2012)

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