02 Nov Ignorance is still a good defense
This court decision could influence the employment law landscape in the near future, according to Louis Lessig, partner at Brown & Connery LLP.
Lessig suggests employers consider policy changes now to stay safe and ward off potential legal trouble.
- In Minarsky v. Susquehanna County, the Third Circuit ruled a worker’s failure to report sexual harassment didn’t let the employer off the hook.
Sheri Minarsky claimed her supervisor made sexual advances toward her for years. She never reported it because she feared losing her job. The company argued since she never reported the harassment, they couldn’t have known to stop it.
But two other workers previously reported the supervisor for harassment, and the company had only given him verbal warnings.
The court ruled Minarsky’s fears preventing her from reporting the behavior were valid. Since the company already knew about the supervisor’s history and hadn’t done much, it wasn’t unreasonable for Minarsky to be hesitant to complain about the behavior, the court said.
Lessig says this is a crucial ruling, because it shows ignorance of harassment isn’t a solid defense for employers anymore. To avoid surprise harassment lawsuits, Lessig suggests companies implement civility and bystander intervention training.
Of course, he’s flat wrong. Ignorance was disproven in this case, not discounted. Big difference.