As far as the law goes, one of a manager’s most important jobs is responding to complaints from employees. A recent case shows the financial hit companies can take when the boss fails to answer effectively.
A woman sued her employer for sexual harassment. She claimed the head of her department repeatedly made sexual comments, asked her on dates and referred to her by obscene nicknames.
She complained to her direct supervisors. Their response: “Go along with it.”
The woman then brought the issue to HR. The company investigated, and the alleged harasser got a warning.
The employee took the company to court, claiming her managers ignored her complaints, and that HR just gave the department head a slap on the wrist.
Managers failed to respond
Answer: the employee. The court agreed that the supervisors’ response was unacceptable and that the warning from HR wasn’t enough to prevent future harassment.
Furthermore, while the company had a written harassment policy, there was no evidence all employees received it. Also, the company claimed to conduct harassment training, but again, had no documented evidence that any training took place.
The case went before a jury, who made the company pay $100,000 in punitive damages.
This case brings some helpful reminders for HR pros:
- Train managers on effectively responding to complaints
- Have all trainees sign an attendance sheet to prove they were there, and
- Get everyone to sign your policy, so you can prove they received it.
Cite: Bjornson v. Dave Smith Motors/Frontier Leasing and Sales