One response to reported sexual harassment is to separate the alleged victim from the alleged harasser. However, if the separation includes a schedule change, the victim may claim that amounted to punishing her for reporting harassment in the first place.
Solution: If at all possible, let the victim keep her normal schedule. The alleged harasser should bear the brunt of any changes. It’s OK to make minor tweaks to the victim’s schedule if you can document why that was necessary to separate the two.
Recent case: Rachel, a Pennsylvania State Police trooper, had a romantic relationship with a fellow trooper. Then they broke up. Months later, Rachel’s former lover, who still worked on the same shift, began sending her gifts and flowers in an apparent attempt to rekindle the romance. Then, he allegedly tried to force her to kiss him.
Rachel complained to her supervisors and asked them to stop the harassment. An investigation followed, andseparated the two by changing their schedules.
Even though Rachel’s schedule changed less drastically than her alleged harasser’s, she sued, alleging the schedule change was retaliation.
The court said some schedule changes in the wake of a harassment complaint might be seen as harassment. However, that wasn’t the case this time. The court reasoned that the Pennsylvania State Police weren’t able to completely separate the two without also modifying Rachel’s schedule and had done all it could to minimize the changes for her. Thus, the employer had done what it could to prevent further harassment. (Jones v. PSP, et al., ED PA, 2017)
Final note: The court did, however, allow Rachel’s sexual harassment claim to proceed because it was apparently common knowledge among first-line supervisors that Rachel was receiving unwanted gifts.
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