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OK to set high anti-harassment standard

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

When it comes to preventing harassment, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act sets a minimum threshold for compliance. Employers are free to hold employees to a higher standard.

You can create rules that regulate behavior far more strictly than what Title VII requires. And you can terminate a worker for breaking those rules even if his misbehavior wouldn’t violate the law.

Recent case: Michael worked as a pilot for a small regional airline. He was frequently written up for late arrivals and not adhering to the dress code.

The airline had a strict no-harassment policy that defined sexual harassment far more broadly than Title VII does. Any sexual comments were grounds for discipline under the rules.

Because Michael had been previously disciplined, he had been warned that any further violations of airline rules would mean termination. Then he made sexually charged comments to female flight attendants as they were preparing for a shift. The airline fired him.

Michael sued. His argument: That because what he said would not have been grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit against the airline, he should not have been fired. He essentially argued that the airline should have allowed his conduct to continue since, legally, it wasn’t sexual harassment.

The court rejected that argument, noting that if the comments had continued, they could have eventually created a hostile environment. The airline didn’t have to take that risk. (Sullivan v. Endeavor Air, 8th Cir., 2017)

Final note: Harassment may have occurred? It’s always safe to issue a warning, documenting the reason.

Note that some so-called “civility” policies that essentially quash any employee complaints about supervisors may violate the National Labor Relations Act right to complain about working conditions.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lorene July 5, 2017 at 9:55 am

What about when staff targets the new program director via making up unfounded stories to HR?


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