loader
Page is loading...
generic_insight_detail

When Is A Sexual Harassment Policy And Training Ineffective?

Janilyn Daub

Janilyn Brouwer Daub

Partner
Higher Education Practice Vice Chair

As we continue our series on sexual harassment cases, here’s a play-by-play of a recent First Circuit case, Aggannis v. T-Mobile, USA, Inc.

  • A customer service rep (CSR) complains to her manager that her team “coach” made a sexual comment about her outfit.  Score for the manager who reports this to HR!
  • HR follows up, but CSR says it’s no longer an issue; she stopped wearing the outfit and doesn’t want anything done.  HR drops it.  Tough call – management has an obligation to act, even if the employee says she doesn’t want anything done.  But in this case, HR legitimately may have believed the issue was resolved.
  • CSR then forwards to HR a sexually-suggestive cartoon sent by the coach.  HR counsels the coach, but court deems it discipline-lite.
  • The future plaintiff in this case, also a CSR, complains to HR that the coach touched her three times (unwelcome), stared at her in a sexual way, and on the first day they worked together, offered her a ride home.  After HR’s initial foul of telling Plaintiff to “stick it out” until the next regularly-scheduled rotation to a new coach, HR offers Plaintiff a transfer or paid time-off while HR investigates.
  • Plaintiff refuses and quits.  Score for the company!  Court rules plaintiff was unreasonable in rejecting the offer of paid time-off, nixing her constructive discharge and back-pay claims.
  • HR proceeds with internal investigation of plaintiff’s claims (good call), and learns a co-worker overheard the coach using the “c” word with two male employees.  HR disregards because it wasn’t directed at a particular female (bad call).
  • HR concludes the coach has boundary issues, but there’s no violation of the company’s sexual harassment policy.
  • In the meantime, plaintiff sues and court sends case to the jury to determine whether there’s legally actionable sexual harassment. Even though T-Mobile had a sexual harassment policy, conducted annual training and had a complaint hotline, court rules there is an issue of fact as to whether T-Mobile “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior” under the Faragher/Ellerth defense.
What’s the end game?  Your actions need to speak louder than words. A sexual harassment policy and training isn’t worth the paper/PowerPoint it’s written on, if the organization doesn’t effectively address inappropriate behavior.

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT

RELATED ARTICLES

Workplace Culture 2.0: More Leadership, Less Management

May 29, 2018 | Workplace Culture and Conduct

Sex, Power & the Workplace Responding to the Skeptics Q&A: Part 2

April 4, 2018 | Workplace Culture and Conduct

Sexual Harassment 2.1: Keep Up, We Are Moving Fast…

February 20, 2018 | Workplace Culture and Conduct

Sexual Harassment In The Non-Profit World

February 14, 2018 | Workplace Culture and Conduct

Part 4: Sex, Power, and the Workplace – When to Tell the Customer They’re Wrong

December 5, 2017 | Employment Lessons, Workplace Culture and Conduct

Subscribe

Do you want to receive more valuable insights directly in your inbox? Visit our subscription center and let us know what you're interested in learning more about.

View Subscription Center
Trending Connect
We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to use cookies.