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Workplace and Sexual Harassment

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Need some assistance in answering the following questions in regards to a mini case study involving harassment.

What federal law and/or state law apply to this case? What kind of harassment, if any, took place? What steps should an employee normally take to qualify a claim for sexual harassment? What agency(s) should Kitty complain to before filing a law suit? What procedural steps are required in order to file a law suit? What are other avenues of relief provided by governmental agencies? Do you think the employer is liable? Why? What defense(s) does the employer have to Kitty's claims, if any.

Please cite references.

Kitty Russell began working for General Hospital in 1999. In August, 2000 she was transferred to the maternity ward, where she worked under the supervision of Chester Goode. Kitty alleges that Goode sexually harassed her from early 2001 until late 2002. Goode's behavior toward Kitty allegedly included both inappropriate comments and unwelcome physical touching. One incident (April 2002) included Kitty being called into Goode's office and he told her he would overlook her attendance problems if he could get close to her and in the process he grabbed her crotch. As it turned out, Kitty had resolved a child care issue that very day and was not late again. Another incident involved an incident in an elevator where Goode reached around her from behind and grabbed her breasts (October 2001). Kitty complained to him about being touched, but Goode merely laughed and told her to "loosen up". Other times Goode would comment on the figures of other hospital personnel in Kitty's presence, normally he would comment about the breast size of every women employee from nurses to doctors.

Chester also liked to tell jokes that had a theme of women with big butts. Kitty; herself; was a little heavy but not over weight. She would laugh at the big butt jokes but told Chester she did not like the comments about women's breasts. At a staff meeting Goode commented to Kitty that if she ever wanted to be a patient he would love to start the process for her to be admitted to the maternity ward.

Kitty told a co-worker (Matt Dillon - who happened to be a supervisor when Goode went on vacation) about Goode's behavior, but Kitty did not formally report it to management until January 2003 when she reported Goode's harassing conduct to one of his supervisors in accordance with hospital procedures set out in the employee manual [Kitty had read the manual during orientation and signed an acknowledgment; however; the manual had been updated several times since then and it was missing on her floor and it took her several weeks to find a copy which she finally found at another nursing station on a different floor; Kitty had not attended yearly classes on the hospital's harassment procedures due to scheduling problems; however she had seen the posters in the employees kitchen area concerning reporting sexual harassment].

An investigation was immediately started against Goode, prompting him to retire. Shortly after he retired Kitty was given new working hours and she was transferred to the grave yard shift because her new supervisor who knew Goode was wary of working with her. Kitty quit her job to attend to her "emotional issues" resulting from her experiences with the hospital.

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Interesting assignment! One approach to help you with this assignment is to address each question from various sources, which you can then draw on for your final copy. This is the approach this response takes. I also attached a supporting article on sexual harassment.


1. What federal law and/or state law apply to this case?

Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

(1) Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment;

(2) Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or;

(3) Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an
Intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. -- Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex, U.S. EEOC (http://www.lectlaw.com/files/emp32.htm).

2. What kind of harassment, if any, took place?

Sexual harassment took place on Kitty Russell, who began working for General Hospital in 1999 by her supervisor, Chester Goode. The "hostile work environment" type of sexual harassment interferes with a person's ability to work and is determined by the type of conduct (verbal or physical), the frequency of the harassment, who is doing the harassing and who the harassment is directed toward (http://www.answerbag.com/articles/How-to-File-a-Sexual-Harassment-Lawsuit/3785f470-3fd5-061e-ffc3-70b7d36e1fa2).

3. What steps should an employee normally take to qualify a claim for sexual harassment?

First, tell the offender to stop the behavior (e.g., like Kitty confronted Chester) because you find it offensive. Second, if it does not stop, talk to the human resource department or the next person higher up if there is no HR department, who must investigate the case. Third, make a formal complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Fourth, file a law suit if you decide following the instructions of your lawyer.

4. What agency(s) should Kitty complain to before filing a law suit?

Kitty should report the complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who will investigate the case. When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis (http://www.eeoc.gov/types/sexual_harassment.html).

5. What procedural steps are required in order to file a law suit?

The procedural step that Kitty should have taken in order to file a law ...

Solution Summary

Referring to the case involving harassment, this solution addresses the proposed questions on various aspects of the case e.g., the federal law and/or state law that applies to this case, the kind of harassment, if any, that took place; the steps an employee should normally take to qualify a claim for sexual harassment; the agency(s) Kitty should complain to before filing a law suit, and so on.

See Also This Related BrainMass Solution

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: John guilty of harassment

Consider the following case:

Peggy had been working for a real estate agency for two months. During this time she developed a friendship with another fellow real estate agent, John. John helped Peggy learn the various policies and procedures of the office.

During a recent office party John asked if Peggy would be interested in going to dinner together the next night. Peggy said no, explaining that she had made other plans already.

A week later Peggy got her first big sale and this accomplishment was announced to the other real estate agents. Later that day she walked by John's desk and John patted her on the buttocks and said, "Congratulations, the first one is always the toughest to get!"

Peggy was very uncomfortable with the incident and the next day asked to speak with her supervisor, Mike. Mike, who was busy trying to negotiate a real estate deal for a customer, listened as Peggy explained what happened but kept interrupting her to answer the phone.

Once Peggy finished her story Mike stated that since this was not an incident of sexual harassment there was nothing he could do. He told her to let him know if anything more serious happens and then he will talk with John about the problem. Following that statement Mike picked up the phone and continued with the negotiation.

The above case describes a single incident that occurred between co-workers, one day at work, along with the subsequent meeting Peggy had with her boss the following morning to report the incident. Peggy believes the incident is sexual harassment. The case gives students an opportunity to carefully consider what is, and what sexual harassment is not,

1.What is sexual harassment in the workplace? Was John guilty of sexual harassment?
2.If you were Peggy, what would you do?
3.What is an organization's responsibility in regard to sexual harassment among co workers or supervisor subordinate pairs? Do you think that Mike responded appropriately to the problem?
4.Outline a brief personnel policy that an organization could adopt to protect itself from sexual harassment lawsuits.

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