The scenario: A new female employee was trained by a male manager who frequently made sexualized, insensitive remarks to her and sometimes stared at her breasts.
After she completed the training, however, the woman was no longer supervised by the training manager. Instead, she reported to a different male supervisor.
The woman had been in the job for a short time when the employer launched an investigation into an unrelated incident of theft. The investigation uncovered a surveillance video showing the male training manager entering and exiting a women’s restroom. Further analysis revealed that the training manager had placed a camera that looked like a USB charger in the restroom.
The male training manager was immediately terminated.
At the same time the unrelated theft investigation was going on, the woman was struggling to learn her job, and she was eventually fired.
Legal challenge: The woman sued for a hostile workplace motivated by her gender. She pointed to the hidden camera as proof of workplace hostility.
The ruling: The employer won. The court dismissed the lawsuit. The judge first noted that the male training manager who’d placed the camera in the restroom wasn’t the woman’s direct supervisor; he was a training manager who didn’t have the authority to fire her.
In addition, the employer immediately dismissed the man who put the camera in the restroom, so it effectively addressed the alleged hostility.
The skinny: Employers that act quickly and decisively to terminate workers who create a hostile workplace for their coworkers usually wind up on the winning side in a court of law.
Cite: Kraft v. Texas A&M University, U.S. District Court, S.D. Texas, No. 4:20-cv-04015, 7/17/23.
(From the Sept. 8, 2023, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)