CA prison system sued for failing to respond to sexual harassment

Posted in Sexual Harassment on August 2, 2013

When it comes to fighting injustice in the workplace, we all have a role to play. In some cases, seeing something illegal or immoral and not doing anything about it can be as bad as participating in the behavior yourself.

This is especially true for employers who receive complaints of sexual harassment. When an employee brings sexual harassment allegations against a colleague or coworker, it is the employer’s legal and moral responsibility to investigate the allegations and take appropriate actions to correct the situation. Employers who fail to respond to such complaints may be held legally liable.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against California’s corrections system for failing to adequately address an employee’s allegations of sexual harassment. The alleged incidents involved a male and female cook who both worked at a youth correctional facility in Chino, California.

According to the lawsuit, the male cook began working for the correctional facility in 2007. About a year later, one of his female colleagues began sexually harassing him with escalating severity.

At first, the incidents involved frequent use of sexual innuendos. Then, the woman started asking the victim “what it would take” for the two of them to have sex. Finally, she allegedly propositioned him by surprising him in a stairwell with her blouse unbuttoned.

The victim complained to his supervisors, and they supposedly investigated. Despite this, the woman was never disciplined. She was eventually fired at a later date for an unrelated offense of bringing contraband into the facility.

Employers must never take sexual harassment allegations lightly or dismiss them outright. If they do, they may find themselves facing legal liability for failing to protect their workers.

Source: Reuters, “U.S. sues California prisons over sexual harassment of prison cook,” Dan Levine, July 11, 2013