- A New York prison took appropriate action to stop an employee who allegedly was harassing a co-worker, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled (Martin v. State of New York, et. al. No. 19-1479 (2nd Cir., March 30, 2020)).
- Denise Martin alleged discrimination on the basis of sex, claiming the employer failed to take a appropriate steps to stop a co-worker who it determined had circulated intimate photos of her, according to court documents. The prison directed the individual to stop and conducted a months-long investigation after which it suspended him without pay, transferred him to a different location and placed him on probation. Martin sued, arguing that "a reasonable jury could easily find that eight (8) months is tantamount to negligent procrastination."
- A district court granted summary judgment to the employer and Martin appealed. The 2nd Circuit upheld the lower court's order, concluding the employer's steps were "reasonable" and "sufficiently expeditious."
HR should create a robust reporting procedure for harassment and discrimination claims and also train managers to properly respond to complaints, employment law experts recommend.
And once those complaints reach HR, any that involve a legally actionable issue should be thoroughly investigated, attorneys recommend. If harassment or other misconduct is discovered, the employer is obligated to take steps to end the misconduct and take reasonable steps to prevent it from occurring again. Notably, employers can be found liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control, if it knew, or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
For example, in a case with extensive evidence of a hostile work environment created by co-workers, the court held that the employer was not liable because it took prompt remedial action sufficiently calculated to stop the harassment, including quickly moving the accused away from the complaining employee.