Date of Complaint: May 1, 2011
ABC Consulting Corporation is charged with discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Specifically, Jane Doe has initiated a complaint that she is a victim of sexual harassment. The alleged sexual harassment is a result of being required to work in a hostile environment. She also alleges that she has been the target of retaliation after requesting that the harassment stop.
She seeks relief; the maximum that she is allowed in compensatory and punitive damages retroactive to the date of the complaint. Additionally, the organization and its management must create an environment free from sexual harassment.
Jane was transferred into the department in May 2010. She was assigned to a senior consultant for 4 weeks of training and orientation in the department. For each phase of training there was a performance checklist and she had to go to him for weekly reviews. After the second week, the feedback sessions felt uncomfortable as John Doe made a remark to her. She suggested a different way of doing the task and he replied, “You’re a woman, what do you know.” Jane ignored it as she did not want to make waves.
The following week they were working on a project with a male co- worker, Thorn Doe. Thorn asked John if he or Jane were thirsty. They both replied, “yes.” Jane asked to be excused to get her purse as she didn’t have any change. John replied, “Don’t worry about it, why don’t you reach down in my pants pocket and get some change.” Jane was appalled and when John noticed this he said, “Don’t worry, it won’t bite.” Thorn said, “I can’t believe he said that. Never mind, I’ll get the sodas.” From that point, Jane knew she was in a hostile environment. She began logging each encounter in a notebook.
By the fourth week, Brenda her supervisor began to notice some changes in Jane’s performance. She did not seem as eager to work on projects with John, her trainer. She came in a couple of days late without an excuse. At that point, Brenda called her in her office to determine the cause of this behavior. Jane gave an excuse that she was stressed about the newness of the situation. Brenda let her know that she could come to her with anything at anytime.
The verbal incidents continued and so did the display of pinup calendars. On July 3 before the holiday, Jane was working on a project with a deadline. Brenda asked her to stay late to finish the project; not knowing that John would also be working late. While she was working on her project, John came by her cubicle and asked if she needed any help. She hesitated; however, John had knowledge on the subject and she wanted to go home. So she said OK and they proceeded to work on the project. At the completion, she yawned and stretched. He said, What’s wrong?She said, It ‘s been a long day; I’m tired and want to go home. He said, Oh relax, we’re done. He proceeded to rub her shoulders. She asked, What are you doing and stop please. He continued. She jumped up from her chair and firmly said, stop. He replied, fine, but you don’t know what you’re missing and walked away.
She went home over the holiday weekend and thought about it and felt she needed to tell Brenda on Monday. Brenda suggested that maybe it would die down in a couple of months. If she (Jane) felt it was a serious situation, she should go to human resources. Jane went to personnel and they recommended she go directly to EEOC.
Word spreads fast and John got wind of it. One day in the lunchroom, John approached her and warned her about spreading rumors. He made the statement,If you keep it up, you’ll never be a senior consultant. Don’t you know, my analysis of your review counts? She knew he meant business as from that point she was assigned to fewer assignments than Thorn. She was also ignored at team meetings.
Thorn went to Brenda and asked her why was he assigned to so many projects, more than one person could possibly handle and Jane was only assigned to one. Brenda said she would investigate the matter and get back with him.
Since the July 3, incident, Jane didn’t know how to cope with her feelings so she sought outside counseling which her insurance did not cover. She felt at this point her reputation was damaged; her life wasn’t the same. She felt she had no future. She was stuck. It affected her social life as she didn’t want to be near a man because of fear of what he would do. She went to the doctor because she began having headaches and losing weight. She used to be calm and collected, but now she has become irritable and jumpy.
Thorn was assigned to a project with Jane and asked to be removed as she couldn’t concentrate on the issues and it was difficult to work on the project with her. Jane noticed a difference in herself and her working relationship with other men. She used to be able to joke and talk with Thorn, but now, all she does is get angry.
Jane went to Brenda and asked to work with a female consultant as she was having difficulty working with Thorn.
Imagine you are an HR consultant working with the organization involved in this situation. The organization wants to be responsive and fair. As the hr consultant, please consider the following questions:
1) How should Brenda (supervisor) handle the work situation? What are your thoughts about the recommendations provided to Jane by Human Resources?
2) Identify the laws, which regulate discrimination in the workplace and are pertinent to this case?
3) How do you think John should be managed? Please support your opinions?