A story of sexual harassment and bad HR

Not investigating sexual harassment can lead to a lawsuit.
Not investigating sexual harassment can lead to a lawsuit.

Firing an employee because it is in her best interest is never a good reason to terminate someone involved in a sexual harassment situation. It leads to something called “retaliation” which makes the lawsuit even more complicated.

Lawsuit filed

The EEOC claims that a plastics packaging company fired a female employee when she complained about sexual harassment. This employee was a temporary employee who was serving in a material handler’s position. She claims she was harassed by one of the company’s regular workers. When she rejected his advances the male employee then started complaining about her work. She then told the supervisor about the harassment.

No investigation

Rather than investigate the complaint of harassment the company decided to just fire the female employee as being in “her best interests.” I am sure the thought process was along the lines of “she is just a temp and now she will have a difficult time working here, so let’s let her go so she can go get another temp job and we don’t have to deal with this.” Unfortunately for the company the EEOC did not care for the company’s reasoning. They filed a lawsuit claiming both the harassment and retaliation in the firing.

The lesson learned in this example

The lesson learned in the example of this packaging company is twofold. Just because an employee is from a temp agency the company is not relieved from the responsibility for the harassing behavior. Secondly, terminating someone for complaining about harassment is never a good solution, especially if no investigation has been done to determine if the complaints were valid. The statement that the termination was done in “her best interests” indicates that the company knew they were wrong.
The case has not been settled yet, but in the meantime the company’s reputation has taken a hit with a nationwide announcement from the EEOC. This could have been avoided if the company had made some other decisions in this case.

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