Human Resources News & Insights

Manager smacked female staffer on her derriere — but it wasn’t harassment

Get this: A male manager who smacked his female employee on the behind did not commit sexual harassment, a judge has ruled. How could that be?

The case involved Sandra Williams, an in-house sales associate for a time-share management company, and her supervisor Robert Griffin.

After Williams closed a particularly difficult sale, Griffin celebrated by, according to court documents, slapping Williams on the buttocks so hard that it left a hand print.

But after Williams sued, a court ruled in favor of the company.

How’s that? Two major factors were at play – Williams’ relationship with Griffin and the company’s response.

Turns out Williams had never had any problems with Griffin before.

She also said Griffin had never spoken to her or touched her inappropriately, nor had she seen him act inappropriately with other female workers.

And she added that she didn’t believe the slap was sexual in nature — or that Griffin was trying to harm her.

All that evidence pointed to the smack as a one-time thing.

But most important was the company’s response to Williams’ complaint — it immediately investigated the matter right away and disciplined Griffin for his actions.

But to Williams’ dismay, the company concluded after its investigation that Griffin’s actions, “while inappropriate,” weren’t actionable — and the court agreed.

The single incident underlying Williams’ internal complaint is not so severe or pervasive as to constructively alter the conditions of her employment or create an abusive environment . . . . Because no reasonable juror could conclude the isolated incident Williams complained of was sexual harassment prohibited by Title VII, her internal complaint was not protected activity….

Case closed.

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