When you own business with any number of employees must do their best to maintain a work environment that is free of sexual harassment. If employers take reasonable steps to prevent it, they aren't legally liable for their employees actions. This is especially true when a co-worker is sexually harassed by another co-workers after hours.
In one recent case of after hours sexual harassment, ironically, includes the holidays. The victim, a woman in New Jersey, had been disciplined several times for being late for work and not following proper protocols when calling in sick to work. Near Christmas, the woman invited a co-worker to holiday party she was going to attend.
The two met in the work lobby and headed out to her car to get to the party. After getting into her car, she claimed that her co-worker sexually harassed and assaulted her. She claims that her co-worker tried kissing her, grabbing her breast, and then unzipped his pants and tried to force her head down into his lap.
According to the reports, she was able to escape and then promptly reported the incident to her supervisors. As a result, the co-worker was reprimanded and demoted for conduct unbecoming of a corrections officer. This though did little to stop her lateness for work and total absenteeism. For this, she was later terminated. After hearing this story, it's not surprising to know that she tried to sue the corrections facility for having a sexually hostile environment and was ultimately sued for reporting the sexual harassment against her.
After hearing both sides, the court threw out the charges. The court decided that the employer wasn't liable for the harassment, since it was a single isolated incident that happened outside the workplace. The second reason the court dismissed the case was due to the employers actions to stop and punish the sexual harassment that had occurred as quickly as possible. The court noted the step the employers took as satisfactory, namely by demoting the harasser.
The third and final reason the courts decided against the harasser was the fact that the employee was fired for her constant absenteeism and sick days. The employers had kept close track of her attendance problems, making sure everything was documented. In the end, the court decided that her termination was truly due to her absenteeism and not a punishment for reporting her sexual harassment.
All in all, the employers did the right thing. If the employers would have required all the employees take sexual harassment classes this situation may have been avoided altogether.
If the company would have required that training then the harasser may have thought twice before committing the act, since he would have been properly educated on what is sexual harassment and what is not. In many cases, the placement of camera's in public places, like the parking lot, can do a world of good. This is especially true for sexual harassment and wrongful termination cases.
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