- Employers will be more vulnerable to liability in discrimination lawsuits if a firing is caused due to company negligence, according to New York federal appeals court ruling.
- In the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case, the court found that an employer responded poorly to a sexual harassment complaint made by female employee who ended up being terminated.
- Andrea Vasquez worked for Empress Ambulance Service Inc. as an emergency medical technician in Yonkers, N.Y. According to the 2014 Title VII lawsuit, Vasquez complained to her supervisors that a co-worker, a dispatcher, texted her unsolicited graphically sexual photos trying to start a romantic relationship. Hours after complaining, the company fired her.
This case is a textbook example of how not to handle a sexual harassment charge, based on the the plaintiff's information presented in the case. Vasquez claims that the offending co-worker, his job potentially in peril, created a fake text-message conversation that showed a consensual relationship. She tried to show supervisors the texts on her phone, but the company wasn't interested and fired both employees.
The court ruled in favor of her lawyer's contention that an employer may be held liable for employment discrimination “based on the discriminatory animus of an employee who influenced, but did not make, the ultimate employment decision.”
The employer's defense was the offending person was a low-level employee, so he was the one at fault. While a lower court agreed with the employer, the Second Circuit didn't. The lesson here seems pretty basic for HR or anyone having the power of hiring and firing: thoroughly investigate all evidence in a case before making a termination decision.
Despite decades of training, the EEOC's recent report has shown that employers need to do more to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. This seems like a prime example of how an employer might have missed the opportunity.