Is Telling A Sexual Harasser To Stop Harassing The Victim Effective Remedial Action?
For more than two decades, our sexual harassment lawyers in Citrus County, Florida have fought for the rights of sexual harassment victims. Through their extensive experience handling sexual harassment cases, our sexual harassment attorneys in Inverness, Florida know that employers frequently argue that they did not create or maintain a sexually hostile work environment because they told the sexual harasser to stop the harassment. By telling the sexual harasser to stop the harassment, employers maintain, they complied with their remedial obligation under federal employment discrimination law. In this article, our sexual harassment lawyers in Citrus County explain how the decision in Vanvliet v. Liberty Hyundai, Inc., Case No. 21-11874 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 20, 2023) demonstrates that simply telling a sexual harasser to stop the harassment does not constitute effective remedial action under federal employment discrimination law.
Sexual Harassment Victims’ Rights
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex. In interpreting Title VII’s prohibition against sex-based discrimination, courts have determined that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination forbidden by Title VII. To violate Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination, sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile work environment.
One an employer knows or should know of sexual harassment in the workplace, Title VII imposes a remedial obligation on employers. “That obligation will not be discharged,” as explained by the court in Fuller v. City of Oakland, Cal., 47 F.3d 1522, 1528 (9th Cir. 1995), “until action—prompt, effective action—has been taken.” The remedial action must be reasonably likely to prevent the sexual harassment from recurring. When an employer takes no remedial action, or the remedial action taken does not stop the harassment, the employer is deemed to have created and maintained a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
In Vanvliet, a woman named Vanvliet brought a sexual harassment claim against her former employer, Liberty Hyundai, Inc. (Liberty), pursuant to Title VII. Vanvliet claims that she was required to work in a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.
While working at Liberty, Vanvliet claims that she was subjected to unwanted sexual harassment by a co-worker named LP. For a month and a half, according to Vanvliet, LP made daily comments to her about her body and describing sex acts he wished her to perform. Vanvliet alleges that she repeatedly asked LP to stop but he continued. On one occasion, according to Vanvliet, LP ran his hand up her leg to her private area in front of a customer.
After LP groped her, Vanvliet reported the incident to her supervisor Quinn. Quin forwarded the complaint to the general manger Eagle. Eagle collected a statement from Vanvliet. He then met with LP and instructed him to stay away from Vanvliet and stop harassing her. He also instructed other staff members to ask LP to leave if they saw him near Vanvliet. Liberty took no further steps and LP faced no disciplinary action.
Although LP was told to stop harassing her, Vanvliet alleges that LP continued to harass her, including making frequent inappropriate comments about her legs and bottom, telling her to sit on his lap, and telling her she owed him sexual favors. Vanvliet claims that she reported this ongoing harassment to human resources manager Milam, but Milam failed to investigate her complaints or take remedial measures. Vanvlient claims that Liberty ultimately terminated her employment in retaliation for taking medical leave protected by federal employment discrimination law.
Remedial Action Must Be Effective
Liberty filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Vanvliet’s sexual harassment claim. In support of its motion for dismissal, Liberty argued that by telling LP to stop harassing Vanvliet and telling other employees to intervene if they saw LP near Vanvliet, Liberty took adequate remedial measures after receiving actual notice of the alleged harassment. Because these steps together fulfilled its remedial obligation, Liberty maintained that it did not create or maintain a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.
The trial court denied Liberty’s motion for dismissal and ruled a reasonable jury could find that Liberty failed to fulfill its remedial obligation under Title VII. The trial court explained that it was “unconvinced” that telling LP to stop harassing Vanvliet and telling other employees to intervene if they saw LP near Vanvliet “were sufficient to meet [Liberty’s] obligations” under Title VII. The trial court further pointed out that Vanvliet alleges that Liberty “took no remedial measures in response to her report of ongoing harassment by LP after the groping incident.” “Taking no remedial measures,” the trial court observed, “is obviously inadequate.” Thus, Vanvliet had presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that Liberty “failed to respond adequately to her complaints of ongoing harassment.”
Free Consultation For Harassment Victims
When employees are required to work in a sexually hostile environment, one of the most critical decisions they must make is which sexual harassment attorneys to consult with regarding their rights as a sexual harassment victim. As part of our commitment to helping sexual harassment victims, an experienced sexual harassment attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our sexual harassment attorneys regarding your rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.
Sexual Harassment Lawyers In Citrus County
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our sexual harassment attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you have been sexually harassed at work or have questions about your protection from sexual harassment under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our sexual harassment lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.