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Sexual Harassment and Demotion

A female employee complained to her employer's personnel department that her male supervisor was sexually harassing her. When she was told that the matter would be fully investigated, she expressed reluctance to continue working in her job while the investigation occurred. Accordingly, she was temporarily transferred to another job.

The investigation revealed that the supervisor had touched both male and female employees by poking them and pulling up on their belt loops. It was determined that although the supervisor's action may have been inappropriate, it didn't amount to sexual harassment. The employer gave the supervisor a reprimand and told him to stop touching the employees

At the conclusion of the investigation, the employer told the employee she had three choices: (1) return to her job, (2) accept another job that would constitute a demotion and result in a pay cut, or (3) quit. Because the employee said she was afraid of repercussions from her supervisor if she went back to her old job, she accepted the demotion.

The employee then filed suit under the Tennessee Human Rights Act. She contended that her employer was guilty of sexual harassment because of the supervisor's improper touching and that it had retaliated against her by effectively forcing her to accept a demotion.

1. Was the supervisor guilty of sexual harassment?
2. Did the employer take an adverse employment action against the employee?
3. If so, was the action the result of the sexual harassment claim filed by the employee?

Please state your opinion of the case. How do you feel the court should rule? What steps do you think employers should take to prevent cases such as this one?

Solution Preview

1. Was the supervisor guilty of sexual harassment?

Yes - absolutely. The supervisor's touching of the employees, both male and female, was definitely inappropriate and sexual harassment. Basically, one of the main factors under sexual harassment laws is the evaluation of how what the court defines as a reasonable person would feel under the same circumstances. A reasonable person would easily indicate that if a man pulls up on a lady's pants, it can be construed as sexual in nature, which would be unwelcome by the majority of female workers. The supervisor ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses the sexual harassment case listed. All three case questions are discussed in detail.

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