By Eric B. Meyer
In Mann v. Staples, Inc., a female employee received unwelcome comments about her appearance and physique, was kissed and groped, and called a “skank ass bitch.”
The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, described this as a “pattern of systemic sexual harassment” — one in which the alleged harasser appeared to have never received any anti-harassment training.
So, what did the court do? It affirmed summary judgment for the employer and dismissed the plaintiff’s Complaint.
Procedures made the difference
According to the court, the employer’s complaint procedure and it’s subsequent implementation made all the difference here:
[T]he facts in this matter show defendant had a specific policy prohibiting sexual harassment; trained its management personnel on these policies; made available a defined and publicized procedure for a victim to present harassment complaints; completed a detailed process to investigate those complaints; and followed through with identifiable remedial and corrective action.”
The Court then did my job and offered all of you a good takeaway:
A company that develops policies reflecting a lack of tolerance for harassment will have less concern about hostile work environment or punitive damages claims if its good-faith attempts include periodic publication to workers of the employer’s antiharassment policy; an effective and practical grievance process; and training sessions for workers, supervisors, and managers about how to recognize and eradicate unlawful harassment.”
Given that EEOC charge activity is at a record high, if it’s been some time since you last reviewed/updated your anti-harassment policy or trained your workforce in this area, now would be a good time to do that.
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.