A Little Preventative Medicine Pays Huge Dividends on Avoiding Discrimination Harassment Lawsuits

As we often counsel clients — courts and juries realize that employees are human beings and humans sometimes do dumb things.  That’s why the discrimination and harassment laws “credit” employers who make real efforts to communicate (and update!) their Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policies and who provide training to their employees on these topics.  In other words, if the employer does its best to instruct people not to harass, provides proper avenues for complaint, promptly and thoroughly investigates all good faith concerns, and takes what it deems to be appropriate action in response to the concern —  then liability will be limited or even eliminated.  The goal is to fix the problem and prevent a tragedy– knowing that we cannot prevent all problems.  This premise played true In Cochran v. Harrison Finance Co., 13-00061-CB (S.D. Ala. Mar. 17, 2014).  Here an employee was fired 2 weeks after she mentioned that a supervisor inappropriately touched her.  The company did all the right things – the employee was aware of the policy and complaint procedure and chose not to make a complaint.  And the employer surely benefitted from the true reason for termination – the employee was caught downloading porn to her work computer.  But even considering the employee’s bad acts, you can easily imagine a different outcome if the company had not taken preventative measures!