HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

How a Manager Told an Employee to “Pray” Sexual Harassment Away

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By Eric B. Meyer

Worst. Advice. Ever.

Two Denny’s waitresses have filed this complaint in a California Superior Court alleging that their manager sexually harassed them and, when they complained to another Denny’s manager, they wore told, “Pray about the situation.” Here are details from Erin Sherbert’s Food Blog at SF Weekly:

Now, on to the details of the Complaint:

Brandy Cachu, a waitress at a Stockton Denny’s, says that in 2009 her manager, Henry Guiaro, asked her if “her boobs were real.” He then asked her if she would ever “participate in a wet t-shirt contest because she would be the winner.”

As the comments continued, Cachu became more distressed, even threatening to report him to the higher-ups at Denny’s. But he didn’t stop, and at one point, he allegedly told her that she got him into trouble with his girlfriend the previous night when he called out Cachu’s name while having sex, the claim states.

About an hour after that comment, Guiaro approached her again and told her he and his girlfriend were recently at Victoria’s Secret and he was “trying to guess [Cachu's] size so he could buy her an outfit.”

Cachu decided enough was enough. She went to another Denny’s manager, James Murti, to report the ongoing sexual harassment. However, much to her chagrin, Murti gave her this useless advice: “Pray about the situation,” he said.

Assuming she did, her prayers weren’t answered, and the sexual overtures continued. On Halloween the following year, Guiaro showed up to work dressed in costume — a doctor’s outfit, of course. He then asked Cachu to meet him in his office so he could “give her an exam,” the claim states.”

The responsibility of supervisors

Now of course, there are just allegations. Yet, when it comes to addressing complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace, businesses need to train their supervisors to do more than offer spiritual advice.

Supervisors have a special responsibility to protect employees and their company from the consequences of workplace harassment. A supervisor is often the first source of assistance for a harassed employee. Supervisors should be educated and well-equipped to deal with a problem that, at times, is often anything but clear-cut.

If a supervisor observes or hears about inappropriate behavior, it is his/her responsibility to take it seriously and deal with it immediately. A quick response can mean the difference between nipping behavior in the bud before it constitutes workplace harassment and having allowing behavior to rise to the level of workplace harassment.

Most harassment begins with inappropriate comments or acts that are not promptly addressed by a supervisor, and then continue and escalate. It is important to focus on the impact of the behavior, not the intent of the person doing the behavior. Encourage the victim to complain directly to Human Resources or to the person tasked with addressing employee complaints.

Regardless, supervisors should immediately and objectively document the conduct and forward that information to the person in charge of investigating the behavior.

Eric Meyer will be leading a group of HR pros in a panel discussion on Social Media in the Workplace – Where is it Today, Where is it Going Tomorrow? at the TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on this event. 

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .