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A CASE OF ILLEGAL SEXUAL HARASSMENT:
Overview: It is critical that employers and employees be very familiar with how sexual harassment is defined in the courts and what situations constitute illegal behavior. This exercise challenges you to think about some of these issues.
Learning Objectives: After completing the assignment, you should be able to:
1. Define what is meant by illegal sexual harassment
2. Understand the key provisions of sexual harassment policy.
3. Outline the policies the organization should adopt to prevent charges of sexual harassment in the future.
Complaint of Ms. Smith:
Ms. Kathleen Smith first worked part-time as a park recreation counselor for the city of Bowman, Idaho. Her immediate supervisor was Jack McKenna. She brought an action against Mr. McKenna and the city alleging that the city and Mr. McKenna created a “hostile working atmosphere” by subjecting Ms. Smith to repeated and uninvited requests for dates and (later) lewd remarks and offensive speech. Ms. Smith had never met or spoke with the superintendent of recreation for the city.
Ms. Smith never complained about her treatment to higher management while employed and did not file a formal complaint under the city’s sexual harassment policy guidelines because she feared retaliation. She did complain to a co-worker who also witnessed some of the incidents. The co-worker informed Mr. Al Kaline, the Bowman HR manager. However, no action was taken by the city since, as Mr. Kaline argues, according to city sexual harassment policy, no formal complaint was filed.
The city included an anti-discrimination/harassment in its employee handbook, which was given to all employees. Each employee signed the document that the handbook was received. In addition, each employee was required to complete an online sexual harassment course as a condition of employment.
The guidelines were clear on the procedure to follow if one felt he or she had been a victim of discrimination and/or sexual harassment. The guidelines stipulated that all formal complaints of harassment must be immediately submitted to their immediate supervisor with Mr. Kaline being notified at the same time. The complaint should be filed with 6 months of the alleged event.
Ms. Smith claimed that Mr. McKenna had asked her out on dates on numerous occasions. The propositions were made in the employee lounge while they were alone and on other occasions, in front of other Bowman employees. Mr. McKenna also like to tell “off color jokes” to his subordinates. He would later maintain that Ms. Smith dressed in a “provocative” manner and she should be therefore expected to be asked out.
In the period in which the alleged sexual harassment took place, the following personnel actions were taken in the recreation unit:
Percent Salary Increase for the Year:
All counselors 5.8% (average)
Ms. Smith 8.5% increase
All Counselors: 221.14€ (Average)
Ms. Smith 442.28€
Promotion to Head Counselor:
Total 4 (Including Ms. Smith)
When questioned about his knowledge of events, Mr. Kaline stated that “there was clearly no evidence that refusal to summit to sexual advances was related to any negative action against Ms. Smith. She is a good employee and is recognized as such through merit increases, bonuses, and promotions. Also, Ms. Smith did not follow the city’s policy on filing harassment complaints. Thus, not further action should (or could) be taken.
Student should respond to following questions:
1. Did the HR manager, Mr. Kaline respond appropriately when he became aware of this issue?
2. Does Ms. Smith hold any responsibility for the outcome of her alleged harassment?
3. Does the alleged sexual harassment in Bowman constitute a violation of Title VII?
4. Does a Quid Pro Quo exist in this situation (refer to your textbook).
5. Should the organization institute a no dating policy?
6. Has the workplace changed for Ms. Smith after this incident had come to light?
7. Does the non-compliance to the Bowman policy exempt Bowman and its employees from further damages or repercussions?
8. Has the City of Bowman effectively put into place an “Affirmative Defense” to harassment and discrimination, if so what are the methods they have instituted?
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