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In these Summer months, it’s easy to relax a bit. For example, last weekend I spent Sunday morning sleeping off a fun Saturday night in the shade of a tree on my front lawn while my four kids played slip-and-slide in traffic on the front lawn too. Although, I did catch my youngest two cooling off in drinking out of puddles on the sidewalk.
But, don’t relax too much at work. As one employer found out, it’s easy to slip up when training (or not training, as the case may be) temporary workers.
For example, in this recent case, a temporary employee alleged that she was a victim of sexual harassment. The company defended by arguing that, when it later hired the plaintiff as a full-time employee, it provided her with an employee handbook with an effective anti-harassment policy [subscribers can access an enhanced version of this opinion: lexis.com | Lexis Advance].
Do you see where I’m going with this? The Court does:
Defendant asserts it has an effective policy and thus is shielded from any claim it is vicariously liable for the alleged actions of Mitchell, Williams, Cruzado, and Martinho, but there is a question of fact whether defendant exercised reasonable care to prevent and to promptly correct the alleged harassment in light of the fact it failed to provide plaintiff with the Employee Handbook until she was hired as a permanent employee and failed to give her any training during her term of temporary employment. Plaintiff may not have endured — or at least may have been able to minimize — the sexual harassment she experienced if defendant had advised her when initially hired as a temporary employee of the remedies available in the event she were harassed. Therefore, there exists a factual dispute whether defendant’s policy meets the standard necessary to enable it to take advantage of the safe haven affirmative defense, precluding summary judgment for the time period when plaintiff was a temporary employee.
Before you know it, the holiday shopping season will be upon us. Retail establishments and others seeing a spike in demand should remember this case and provide anti-harassment training to all employees — full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary.
The rest of you should train everyone too. And don’t let ’em drink any puddle water either.
This article was originally published on Eric B. Meyer's blog, The Employer Handbook.
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