Employer pays $59K to employee harassed, told she should be 'home in the kitchen'
- Keller Paving, a North Dakota-based construction company, will pay $59,000 to resolve a sexual harassment and constructive discharge suit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged that the company subjected a female truck driver to a hostile work environment based on her gender and forced her to quit her job, in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
- According to the EEOC, during the few months Jennifer Gerard worked for Keller, several male co-workers sexually harassed her. They also told her she didn't belong at the worksite and should be at home in the kitchen taking care of her children. Gerard reported the incidents to the company's owner and site manager, but the harassment continued, forcing her to quit, EEOC said.
- The company agreed to pay Gerard $59,000 in monetary relief, revise its handbook to include a complaint process for sexual harassment, train managers on Title VII and train non-managerial staff on their rights under the law. The company also must report sexual harassment complaints it receives to EEOC.
Employers have a responsibility to take harassment complaints seriously, experts say.
Policies and training are an important first step. All employees may need such training, as at least one study shows that the majority of alleged harassers are co-workers, not supervisors. Managers also need to be able to recognize complaints and escalate them to the appropriate place.
But employer efforts can't stop there, they say. Policies must be consistently enforced, and employers must take prompt and appropriate action to stop any type of harassment, including sexual harassment.
HR may soon see an increase in sexual harassment allegations, thanks to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. While the EEOC says it has not yet seen an uptick in complaints, one attorney told attendees at a recent Society for Human Resource Management conference that employers are seeing an increased number of demand letters.