Court of Appeals Emphasizes Duty of Employer in Harassment Case
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a finding of liability and reinstated a punitive damages award against an automobile manufacturer based on a jury’s reasonable conclusion that the employer did not promptly or adequately respond to an employee’s complaints of harassment. Although the employee was unable to identify who had left harassing and threatening notes in his toolbox and work area and vandalized his vehicles, the jury found that the employer could have done more to investigate and address the allegations. See May v. Chrysler Group, LLC, Nos. 11-3000 & 11-3109 (7th Cir., August 23, 2012). This decision highlights the need for every employer to take prompt and appropriate actions in response to employee complaints of harassment. Even in the face of egregious harassment by an employee, the employer can avoid liability by implementing reasonable policies and practices (including anti-harassment training) and by promptly investigating and taking reasonable steps to stop harassing conduct.