EEOC v. Management Hospitality of Racine, Inc. (7th Cir.
1/9/12) [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to lexis.com subscribers]
concerns some of the worst allegations of sexual harassment you will encounter,
especially when you consider that the complaining employees were both teenagers
and that the harassing manager was a decade their senior.
The employer tried to avoid liability by relying on its
zero tolerance sexual harassment policy and its prompt investigations of
complaints. The court disagreed for several reasons, including that managers
had never received any harassment training and that the employer waited two
months to investigate the complaints in this case. Most importantly, however,
the court concluded that the employer's harassment policy failed on its face:
An employer's complaint mechanism must provide a clear
path for reporting harassment, particularly where, as here, a number of the
servers were teenagers.... Flipmeastack's sexual harassment policy did not
provide a point person to air complaints to. In fact, it provided no names or
contact information at all.
What does this mean for you? A harassment policy is
worthless if it does not tell employees how to complain and to whom to make
complaints. Let me make one additional suggestion - have more than one avenue
for complaints. You do not want to be in a situation where an employee does not
complain because the person to whom your policy directs him or her is the
alleged harasser. Suggest that employees can complain to anyone in
management, up to and including the head of your company. Depending on the size
of your organization and the resources available, consider implementing a
harassment complaint hotline or inbox.
Visit the Ohio Employer's Law Blog for more
Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz,
with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a
partner in our Labor
& Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.