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In the last few weeks as a human resources (HR) consultant at Elora Jean & Co., you have reviewed several issues, made recommendations, and developed policies. In addition to the issues previously reviewed, the owner has advised you of the following situation:
A charge was recently filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by an employee. The charge states that two female employees in one of the nonunion satellite offices were subject to repeated and unwelcome sexual advances by their male supervisor. The charge further states that the two women previously complained to the supervisor’s immediate superior, letting him know that they felt uncomfortable and would like the behavior to stop. The harassment did not stop; rather, it continued over a period of 3 months. At that point, the female employees decided that the company would not help. They decided to file a claim with the EEOC, stating they were being sexually harassed at work.
The owner is certain that the company can put together a response that will clear it of the charge, and she asked if you felt they had a strong case. You state that you are not legal counsel for Elora Jean & Co.; however, you request permission to investigate the claim before giving your thoughts on the company’s documentation for legal defense.
Given your knowledge of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, you are concerned with Elora Jean & Co.’s ability to defend the EEOC charge. You plan to engage in your own investigation into the claim to learn more about the complaints made, who had knowledge, what type of investigation was conducted (if any), and what actions were taken. As part of your investigation, you learn that Elora Jean & Co. does not have any policies or procedures relating to sexual harassment in the workplace.
You need to address and advise the owner of Elora Jean & Co. on courses of action. Present your evaluation in a written memo to the owner. As you prepare your strategy for investigating the claim, consider the following:
- What is the legal definition of sexual harassment?
- What investigation process should Elora Jean & Co. have engaged in when the claims were first made? Why will that be important to the defense of the EEOC charge?
- What is the legal liability for Elora Jean & Co. if the EEOC investigation finds the charge to be factual with employer knowledge of the events? Consider the options of mediation versus litigation with regard to organizational cost.
- What elements would you recommend be included in a sexual harassment policy?
- What should Elora Jean & Co. do to prevent this type of charge in the future?
- Research and briefly summarize a recent case of sexual harassment that was won by the employee. Provide information relating to the financial outcome of the case.
- What implications does the Civil Rights Act of 1991 have for employers?
- What are your overall recommendations for the owner with regard to preparing a response to the EEOC charge?