Employee complaint after termination didn't save her job

by on May 4, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

With no appearance of a mixed motive, employer’s reason was legit

When an employee waits until after she’s fired to file an employee complaint about harassment, she can’t expect the employer to be liable – and the employer shouldn’t be afraid of vigorously defending itself if the case winds up in court.

She rejected his advances
Yolanda Frank, a county employee, claimed she was sexually harassed by her supervisor. But Frank didn’t report her boss’s alleged behavior until after she was terminated for insubordination. She charged the real reason for her termination was her rejection of her boss’s advances.

In court, Frank detailed five incidents of sexual advances and unwanted touching. And she introduced witnesses who testified they’d known about the harassment. Yet, neither they nor Frank went to any other manager or to HR.

Frank argued that once the employer learned of her allegations (after her termination) it should have reinstated her, opened an employee complaint investigation and dealt with Chambers.

But a court disagreed, finding Frank had waited too long to report her allegations. Since the employer did not know about the harassment until after Frank got fired – and her insubordination had been properly documented – the termination was legal.

Lesson learned: In cases like this, ignorance may not be bliss, but it may get an employer off the hook.

Cite: Frank v. Harris County, U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, No. 03-21025, 12/15/04.

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