What Happens When a Harasser Files a Claim of Retaliation?

From the HR blog at TLNT.
From the HR blog at TLNT.

By Eric B. Meyer

An EEOC complaint is not your free pass to goof off at work.

Or sexually harass your co-workers.

Gary Vaughn found out the hard way.

After he filed a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he spent the next two years sexually harassing a female co-worker — to the point whether she took out a restraining order against him and filed her own Charge of Discrimination in which she alleged that Mr. Vaughn had sexually harassed her.

2 lessons to remember

When Mr. Vaughn’s employer changed his hours to keep him the heck away his co-worker, he too filed a Charge of Discrimination, alleging that his employer’s action was in retaliation for his previous charge of discrimination filed two years earlier.

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The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had little difficulty affirming a lower court decision to dismiss Mr. Vaughn’s retaliation claim. Specifically, it noted that Vaughn “cannot use his prior EEO activity as a shield against the consequences of his inappropriate workplace conduct.”

The case is Vaughn v. Vilsack.

So, let this be a lesson to you. Two lessons actually.

  1. When conducting anti-harassment training, encourage employees to report behavior that they either experience of witness in the workplace, which may violate your non-harassment policy. But, warn them that a complaint to management does not create a the right to violate work rules with impunity.
  2. To those who choose to ignore that directive, serve up appropriate discipline. Otherwise, letting violations of work rules go unchecked, may create legal headaches if you later discipline other employees for the same transgressions. That whole disparate treatment thing, and all.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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1 Comment on “What Happens When a Harasser Files a Claim of Retaliation?

  1. Very good post, Eric.

    To a similar point… too often employees take management indiscretion (particularly if they decisively win an arbitration or a grievance) as a license for poor behavior.

    Bad behavior is bad behavior regardless of past treatment. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Thanks for sharing, and keep writing.

    Best,

    Rory

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