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Slam the brakes on escalating harassment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Don’t hesitate to stop behavior that hasn’t quite risen to the level of full-blown harassment. Do it as soon as you get wind that something is amiss.

Recent case: Rosie worked for a social services agency in a job that sometimes required her to check out an agency car and to use an agency credit card. The manager in charge of cars and credit cards sometimes accompanied employees when they made purchases.

Rosie complained to her supervisor that the manager once looked at her in a way she considered offensive. She bent over to pick up some papers she had dropped when the manager allegedly gave her the “look” she deemed offensive. She also claimed that another time when the two were shopping with the agency credit card, he punched her lightly on her arm and said she was strong enough to carry her own bags. Finally, the manager allegedly grabbed her forearm while ­passing her in a hallway and gave her a “nasty look.”

Rosie’s supervisor talked to the manager and warned him to stop bothering Rosie. He never did again.

Rosie sued anyway, alleging sexual harassment. She claimed the incidents were severe enough to interfere with her ability to do her job.

The court tossed out her case. It reasoned that none of the in­­cidents was severe and that as soon as the manager was told to leave her alone, he did. Because the problem was resolved after Rosie complained and because the manager wasn’t her supervisor, the agency had done all it legally had to do to prevent and stop harassment. (Her­­nan­­dez v. County of Yolo, No. C067631, Court of Appeal of Cali­­for­­nia, 3rd Appellate Dis­­trict, 2013)

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