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Your best bet for preventing lawsuits: Prompt action, unimpeachable fairness

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Prompt, fair resolution of harassment complaints is the best way to prevent litigation—and defend yourself if a lawsuit happens anyway.

Recent case: Nancy didn’t get along with a male co-worker and resented his initial comment that he didn’t want to work with a woman. But their common supervisor was also a woman, who immediately told the man that his comment and his attitude were unacceptable.

Around the same time, she complained that a contract worker had sexually har­­assed her. He was immediately fired.

Later, Nancy and others in her division were told that the business was being sold, but that they would receive a severance payment equal to about $20,000 if they stayed until the sale closed. Nancy was informed she had 21 days to review the severance packet, agree to its terms and sign the release.

Instead, she presented a counter-offer that included paying her tuition for a master’s degree, plus three years of salary. The company terminated Nancy immediately.

She sued, alleging sexual harassment by the co-worker and the contractor.

The court tossed out her case, noting that management had responded promptly to her complaints. (Dolan v. Penn Miller Insurance, No. 3:09-2041, MD PA, 2014)

Final note: The employer did everything right. A supervisor stepped in before a sexist comment could turn into something worse. When the contractor tried harassing Nancy, HR investigated and terminated him. The company offered a fair and reasonable severance payment, which Nancy rejected when she presented an unreasonable counteroffer.

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