- A former employee of Greenleaf Wellness, a marijuana business, has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that she was subject to sexual harassment and retaliation by a manager (Hardy v. Greenleaf Wellness, Inc. et al. No. 19-cv-00767 (D. Nev. Dec. 30, 2019)).
- Starting November 2018, Danielle Hardy experienced a sexually hostile work environment brought on by a Greenleaf Wellness manager, she said in her complaint. The manager allegedly repeatedly touched her in an appropriate and sexual manner, "routinely regaled" her with sexual remarks, and openly referred to women in pejorative terms. He introduced one woman in meetings, for example, as his "lap dog," the complaint said.
- Hardy said she was fired in January 2019 after she refused to reciprocate the manager's sexual banter and advances. Greenleaf Wellness failed to investigate the situation and failed to put into place remedial action that would stop the alleged harassment and prevent future harassment, the complaint said.
HR can't ignore reports of inappropriate statements and actions, experts say. In fact, employers may be "automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages," according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). For example, the agency recently sued an Arkansas Pei Wei for allegedly ignoring complaints that two managers were harassing employees.
Generally, to avoid liability in circumstances of a supervisor's harassment, the employer must prove that it tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior and that the employee failed to take advantage of the preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer. Employers that act appropriately when harassment complaints are made have a strong defense if a legal claim is made.
A court recently held that an employer was not liable for the harassment alleged by three truck drivers even though they had presented extensive evidence of a hostile work environment created by co-workers because the employer took prompt remedial action that was sufficiently calculated to stop the harassment. When harassment was reported, the employer tried, within 24 hours, to separate the complainant from the accused and took a number of other actions to resolve the problem.
HR should create a reporting procedure for harassment and discrimination that starts with taking all complaints seriously regardless of whether the alleged harassment is at the hands of a supervisor or co-worker, and make sure that complaints are promptly investigated, experts previously told HR Dive. Moreover, complaint procedures should allow employees to report concerns to more than one person, in case his or her immediate supervisor or HR rep is the alleged harasser, EEOC has said. Compliance training is also important in preventing discrimination and harassment claims. Employers should conduct harassment training at least once a year, with separate sessions for managers and employees, Robin Shea of Constangy Brooks, Smith & Prophete previously told HR Dive.