The scenario: In order to obtain a certification that would allow her to work for a company, a woman had to participate in several months of on-the-job training. A man assigned to train her made it clear right away that he didn’t like working with women.
The male trainer routinely referred to the woman as
“b-tch” and “grandmother.” He often kicked her or hit her with a stick while she was working. And the man several times unnecessarily brushed up against her breasts.
The woman complained about the boorish behavior, but her manager dismissed her claims and took no action in response to her allegations.
Meanwhile, the woman wasn’t doing well with the training. She consistently scored failing grades and was warned that she needed to improve her performance in order to gain the required certification.
The male trainer who’d been harassing her eventually took another job within the company, saying that he “didn’t want to work with women anymore.”
Even though the unwelcome harassment stopped, the woman still struggled and was eventually denied the required certification and terminated. The male trainer who’d harassed her wasn’t involved in the decision to dismiss her.
Legal challenge: The woman sued for a gender-hostile workplace.
The ruling: The company lost. The court said a jury should decide whether the woman endured hostility based on her gender, noting that she faced intolerable conditions during her training that male trainees weren’t subjected to.
The skinny: Supervisors who fail to promptly investigate claims of sexual harassment are playing a dangerous game.
Cite: Klotzbach-Piper v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., U.S. District Court, D. D.C., No. 18-1702, 9/3/21.
(From the Nov. 26, 2021, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)