The scenario: A female employee was involved in a consensual romantic relationship with her male supervisor. When the woman broke off the relationship, her manager became extremely upset.
He began to sexually harass her and let her know that he was unhappy that she’d ended the relationship. He also threatened an adverse employment action if she didn’t have sex with him. She rejected his advances.
When a different female employee accused the male supervisor of sexual harassment, the woman reluctantly agreed to participate in the investigation of the other woman’s claims. The male boss was outraged with the woman’s participation in the investigation, even going so far as to besmirch her actions on a local radio station.
The woman was distraught about the radio interview and began to suffer from depression as a result of it.
A short time later, the male supervisor fired the woman.
Legal challenge: The woman sued her former supervisor for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The ruling: The supervisor lost. The court refused to dismiss the woman’s lawsuit. The judge said she provided adequate evidence that the behavior of the manager was intentional, reckless and so outrageous that it wouldn’t be tolerated in a civilized society. And the woman experienced mental health issues as a result of the supervisor’s actions.
The skinny: While it’s rare for crew members to prevail in lawsuits against their direct supervisors, it can happen, especially when the manager thinks it’s OK to engage in outrageous conduct.
Cite: Houston v. Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, et al., U.S. District Court, W.D. Tennessee, No. 2:21-cv-2393, 3/28/22.
(From the April 15, 2022, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)