Play the Hand You're Dealt

Sexual harassment claims often come from things you can't fully control.  A rouge supervisor.  An on-the-side workplace romance that goes bad.  On top of that, you can't pick the employee who gets harassed and turns plaintiff.

The plaintiff's background, I think, can make or break a case--just look at O'Dell v. Wright.  The plaintiff testified that she had been abducted and sexually assaulted when she was five years old.  She also said that her supervisor had barraged her with lewd comments and touched her twice.  A Fort Worth jury awarded $425,000 for the plaintiff's mental anguish alone.  And the appellate court let the jury verdict stand.

Let's talk about what you can control.  A few simple steps will help keep you away from angry juries and preserve your defenses against higher damage awards.  You can:

  • Avoid a runaway jury by implementing an arbitration policy or jury waiver agreement for your employees;
  • Have a solid discrimination and harassment policy;
  • Train your employees on your policies; and
  • Investigate any reports of harassment and respond appropriately.