By: Tommy Eden
A production supervisor for Smokin’ Spuds Inc. based in Colorado had a habit of licking his finger and putting it in the ears of at least two of the female workers as he sexually propositioned them, according to a recent EEOC lawsuit. He also allegedly touched female employees’ buttocks while they clocked in for work, forced others to sit on his lap in a dark office while he made inappropriately sexual remarks, licked his lips while watching them from a distance and other offensive conduct.
The EEOC claimed in a Federal Court complaint that at least three of the women named in the suit were forced to perform undesirable work and eventually fired after they opposed or reported the production supervisor’s conduct. When one of the female employees reported the supervisor’s sexual harassment to the manager, she was sent home for the rest of the day and asked to write a statement reporting the supervisor’s conduct. Two managers then met with her the following morning, and then told her to go to lunch while they decided what to do about her report concerning sexual harassment. When she returned approximately forty minutes later, a manager told her she was being terminated for being gone too long for lunch.
Smokin’ Spuds never took any disciplinary or corrective action against the offending supervisor, the suit claims. The case was filed by the EEOC on August 7, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
Common Sense Counsel: The EEOC just released 2013 statistics on Harassment Charges that the monetary relief has increased dramatically – from $82.1 million in fiscal year 2012 to $97.3 in fiscal year 2013. With Smokin’ Spuds troubles in mind, below are Constangy law partner Robin Shea’s, Top 12 Employer Harassment Mistakes:
1. Having a harassment policy that covers sexual harassment only — nothing about race, national origin, disability, age, or religion.
2. Having a policy that requires the accuser to report the harassment through the chain of command.
3. Policy or training that is too legalistic.
4. No training.
5. Training that does not occur unless you’ve been sued.
6. Supervisors who, when receiving a harassment complaint, start investigating (or, heaven forbid, making determinations) on their own.
7. Related to No. 6, failure to timely notify Human Resources or your lawyer about a complaint of harassment.
8. Not promptly separating the accuser and the accused, to (a) prevent further incidents, or (b) prevent further false accusations. (Consider suspending the accused with pay while you investigate. For everybody’s protection.)
10. Under reaction.
11. Failure to follow all leads when conducting your investigation.
12. Failure to follow up with the accuser after the investigation is over.
Robin’s full blog article is available athttp://www.employmentandlaborinsider.com/harassment/the-dirty-dozen-top-12-employer-harassment-mistakes/
Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com and follow on twitter @tommyeden3