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Prompt investigation cuts co-worker harassment liability

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Employers that promptly investigate sexual harassment claims aren’t liable for co-worker harassment.

Recent case: Dayna, a corrections officer at a prison, was working in a control room when a male corrections officer entered. He began massaging her shoulders and rubbing against her. When he began making moaning noises, she pushed him away. Seconds later, he ejaculated on her. Upset, she got a plastic bag to preserve the evidence. Then she filed a sexual harassment complaint.

Two investigations ensued, each concluding that the activity was consensual and that both Dayna and the man should be terminated. Dayna sued, alleging sexual harassment.

She lost the case—even though the court thought it strange that someone would preserve semen from a consensual incident. What mattered was that the employer took her complaint seriously and investigated. (Newton v. Ohio, No. 11-3681, 6th Cir., 2012)

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