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Q: Legal question about sexual harrassment (Texas, US) ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Question  
Subject: Legal question about sexual harrassment (Texas, US)
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: kenneth1982-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 29 Sep 2006 10:07 PDT
Expires: 29 Oct 2006 09:07 PST
Question ID: 769491
My mother was recently undeniably sexually harrasssed, but forgave the
offender and decided not to press charges. Afterwards, a higher-up in
our organization released a statement saying that no sexual
harrassment had taken place. When my family confronted him about this,
he said that he had to write this, because to say that it had taken
place would legally bind us to take legal action against the offender.
Is this true?
Answer  
Subject: Re: Legal question about sexual harrassment (Texas, US)
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 29 Sep 2006 17:56 PDT
 
Dear kenneth1982-ga

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question.
Presumably the ?higher-up? was referring to Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, which requires an employer to act promptly to a
complaint of sexual harassment in the workplace. This was mandated by
a 1997 precedent civil suit entitled ?Young v. Bayer Corp.? [No.
96-3700, 9/5/97; Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals]. In that case the
plaintiff, who was sexually harassed by her employer, put the company
on notice by notifying her foreman but the company failed to act
promptly. complaints to her department head of sexual harassment by
her foreman put the company on notice of the sexual harassment.

?The employee complained to her department head at least five times
that her foreman was sexually harassing her. The department head
talked to the foreman about the employee?s complaints, but did not
report the complaints to the plant?s personnel director.?

PERSONNEL POLICY SERVICE, INC.
http://www.ppspublishers.com/articles/employee_notice_sexualharassment.htm

The court found that just by notifying her supervisor the victim
employee formally and sufficiently placed the company on notice of the
offense. The court further ruled that the company did not act
accordingly in response to the notice as provided by Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title 42 of the US Code which govern
unlawful employment practices.

TITLE VII OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964
http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/vii.html

While the company is not mandated by Texas law to notify the police or
other similar authority in response to being put on notice of sexual
harassment, Federal law does state that a formal complaint triggers a
mandatory investigation by the US Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC):

?Whenever a charge is filed by or on behalf of a person claiming to be
aggrieved, or by a member of the Commission, alleging that an
employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint
labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other
training or retraining, including on-the-job training programs, has
engaged in an unlawful employment practice, the Commission shall serve
a notice of the charge (including the date, place and circumstances of
the alleged unlawful employment practice) on such employer, employment
agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee
(hereinafter referred to as the ?respondent?) within ten days, and
shall make an investigation thereof.?

42 U.S.C.  2000e-5(b)
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00002000---e005-.html

With those protections in mind, if the employer intends to act
prudently, he should ?report? the incident either to its Human
Resources department, regional manager, corporate headquarters or
whatever mechanism is in place to address such a complaint and to act
upon it promptly, though he is not actually required by law to do so
(i.e. criminally liable). In other words, if an employer knows what?s
good for him he will report a sexual harassment complaint in a timely
manner, lest he place his company at risk of being presumed by a civil
court to have been a party to the offense through negligence.

Formal complaints may involve ?reporting? the incident to external
authorities such as the EEOC if internal problem solving cannot
adequately arbitrate and resolve the issue to a satisfactory
conclusion. This Federal authority is outlined in 29 CFR 1604.11 :

TITLE 29--LABOR COMMISSION
PART 1604--GUIDELINES ON DISCRIMINATION BECAUSE OF SEX
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE=29&PART=1604&SECTION=11&YEAR=2001&TYPE=TEXT

See also: 

Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful
Harassment by Supervisors
http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/harassment.html

?As the Supreme Court stated, "Title VII is designed to encourage the
creation of anti-harassment policies and effective grievance
mechanisms." Ellerth, 118 S. Ct. at 2270. While the Court noted that
this "is not necessary in every instance as a matter of law,"56
failure to do so will make it difficult for an employer to prove that
it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct harassment.?

I hope you find that my answer exceeds your expectations. If you have
any questions about my research please post a clarification request
prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating and your
final comments and I look forward to working with you again in the
near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;

Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher


[INFORMATION SOURCES]

US EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION (EEOC)
http://www.eeoc.gov/
(Sexual Harassment - http://www.eeoc.gov/types/sexual_harassment.html )


29 CFR 1604.11
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE=29&PART=1604&SECTION=11&YEAR=2001&TYPE=TEXT


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Texas

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EEOC

Federal law

US Code
Comments  
Subject: Re: Legal question about sexual harrassment (Texas, US)
From: keystroke-ga on 29 Sep 2006 10:12 PDT
 
You are not legally bound to take legal action against an offender
unless you are a police officer or prosecutor. Either they don't know
what they're talking about or they wanted to cover for themselves...
most likely, the latter.

I think it is more likely that if they had admitted to the sexual
harassment, and your mother had decided to press charges or sue, the
case would be rock-solid on her part. They didn't want to give you the
opportunity to open the case later. If they deny it now, they can deny
it later when you take them to court and let a jury decide.

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