Quirky Questions

Real Life Employment Law

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→

Employee Injury, Quirky Question # 3

Quirky Question # 3:

I was called out to our company’s parking lot (we run a manufacturing facility) during a break because of a report that an employee had been injured and was bleeding outside our building.  Upon my arrival, I learned that the injured employee had created a homemade “shooting device” from a pipe, firecrackers, and ball bearings.  He was planning to show off the device to co-workers by doing some “target practice” during his break.  Unfortunately, he had the device turned backwards and he shot himself in the stomach.

How should our company respond to this situation?  What are our primary risks? Answer→

Donating Sick Leave, Quirky Question #2

Quirky Question # 2:

One of our employees is quite ill, with a very serious illness.  She has used up all of her sick time.  She is well liked and several of her co-workers want to donate all of their sick time to her.  Are there any downsides to allowing these employees to donate their sick time?  Are there any downsides to disallowing these sick time donations? 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→

A New Question Every Week

Nearly every day, executives and managers, and the in-house counsel and Human Resources professionals who work with them, are confronted with unanticipated questions regarding the workforce. Just when they think they have "seen it all," along comes a new and often stranger scenario involving an odd twist to an area they thought they fully understood. These individuals often find themselves back at square one when trying to construct an appropriate response and devise a creative solution to the problem presented. Sometimes these "Quirky Questions" can be resolved easily; other times, they implicate practical and legal issues that are not immediately apparent. This Quirky Questions blog addresses these unanticipated employment questions.

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