Category Archives: Sexual Harassment

Disparaging Comments on Web, Quirky Question # 14

Quirky Question # 14:

One of our employees discovered fortuitously (by Googling his own name) that a co-worker down the hall has been posting messages to a Web-blog, in which he identified the employee by name and made graphic, negative sexual observations about him.  Not surprisingly, the two employees are not friends.  The subject of the comments had no idea that this conduct was going on and is worried about how these comments already have or will affect his reputation (both within the company and outside of it).

We intend to terminate the employee who placed the comments on the Blog.  Are there any risks associated with that discharge?  We also wonder what actions, if any, the company should take vis-’a-vis the employee about whom the comments were made?  Does that employee have any legal rights that could be asserted against either the company or the employee we expect to terminate? Answer→

Sexual Harassment — Employment of Minors, Quirky Question # 12

Quirky Question # 12:

Our company employs a lot of minors.  We have a policy prohibiting sexual harassment.  It is written for our work force as a whole and is not tailored toward the high school students we employ.  A friend of mine recently told me that our policy has to be understandable by the high school students for it to be valid.  Is that true?  Also, we occasionally get complaints from the parents of the kids who work at our firm.  I don’t pay much attention to those complaints since some of these parents are overprotective and I figure that kids will let me know if they truly have a concern.  In your view, are there any problems with this approach? Answer→

Sexual Harassment (Round 2), Quirky Question # 5

Quirky Question # 5:

I read your Quirky Question # 4.  Unlike your last reader, I am not in our company’s Human Resources Department.  But I am the attorney within our Office of the General Counsel with responsibility for addressing employment issues.

One of our HR representatives informed me that she had received a sexual harassment complaint by one of our employees.  The complaint involved conduct by one of our company’s executives.  Although the employee was apprehensive about making a complaint against this individual due to his stature within the company, she did so.

Unlike the fact pattern of your last Quirky Question, although the employee was uneasy about the company initiating an investigation, she did not advise our HR representative that she would address the problem herself.  Rather, she clearly wanted HR to help and it did.  The company conducted an investigation, which corroborated many of the employee’s complaints (dimwitted comments relating to sex, affectionate physical gestures, discussion of marital problems, odd interaction at after-work gatherings at a local watering hole, etc.).  We took appropriate disciplinary steps to stop the behaviors that were troubling our employee, not to mention inconsistent with our Company’s harassment policy.

Lately, I have noticed that the complaining employee seems to be spending a lot of time with the Executive about whom she complained.  She seems to be interacting frequently with him, both at work and, as far as I can tell, after work.  I’m not sure what HR should do, what I should do, or whether the company needs to do anything at all.  Got any advice? Answer→

Sexual Harassment, Quirky Question # 4

Quirky Question # 4:

I am an HR Representative.  One of my duties is to take complaints regarding workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment. One of our female employees recently complained to me that she feels as though she is being sexually harassed by one of our top salesmen.  (He is not her supervisor, but she does work on the team that supports sales after they have been made, so he could provide some feedback to her superiors on her performance.)

When she told me about the situation, she was somewhat vague.  She also informed me that she will “handle it,” and does not want me to take any action on her behalf.  She says that she simply wanted me to know “what’s going on.”

I’ve honored her request that have not done anything in the several weeks since she made her report.  I’d like to know what’s really “going on” but I’m trying not to intrude.  Do you have any guidance for me? Answer→

Executive Termination, Quirky Question # 1

Quirky Question # 1:

We recently terminated one of our executives “without cause.”  Under his employment contract, we are obligated to pay one year’s severance for terminations without cause.  In contrast, we have no obligation to pay him anything if he is terminated “with cause.”  Following his departure, we reviewed his computer hard drive.  We discovered two areas of concern.

First, he had downloaded pornography onto his work computer, in violation of our clear policies regarding use of company computers and sexual harassment.  Second, much to our surprise, we found on his computer a substantial number of confidential documents that he had taken from the company where he worked before joining our firm.  This too violates our company policies – we strictly prohibit employees from introducing confidential, proprietary and trade secret information belonging to a former employer into our work place, whether in hard copy or electronic form.

Had we known these facts, we would have fired the executive for cause.  Do we still have to pay him his one year severance pay? Answer→