A quick checklist for handling harassment claims

A quick checklist for handling harassment claims

The steps this organization took after a sexual harassment complaint are textbook examples of what employers should strive to do in these situations.

What happened: Jacqueline Lee, who worked for Dairyland Power Cooperative in Wisconsin, sued Dairyland, claiming she’d been the victim of sexual harassment and subjected to a hostile work environment.

She said her supervisor and two Dairyland workers discussed their desire for Lee to wear “spring outfits,” and compared her to another woman described as “here come the jugs.”

But Dairyland argued her lawsuit should be thrown out because it lacked merit – and the court agreed for a number of reasons that provide a lot of guidance to employers when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment claims.

For starters, the court said no one “could find Dairyland failed to take reasonably sufficient action to end further harassment.” Here’s why:

  • HR met with Lee the day after she complained, and again at her home, and launched an investigation.
  • Lee was put on paid administrative leave until the investigation was over.
  • Lee’s supervisor apologized to her during a meeting with HR and promised not to harass Lee and to protect her from retaliation.
  • Lee’s supervisor was disciplined with a two-week unpaid suspension.

The sum of these actions demonstrated that the company took the complaints seriously, effectively negating her argument that the company allowed a hostile workspace to exist, and demonstrated the company’s active interest in keeping sexual harassment out of the workspace.

Of course, it’s entirely likely that the comments were good faith joking, but we have raised a generation of children who expect the monsters to arrive on Maple Street.

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