Battery verdict upheld against CEO for workplace harassment
An owner/CEO who relentlessly pursued a romantic relationship with a woman who worked for him is liable, along with his company, for battery. The price tag? Over $103,000 in compensatory damages and over $506,000 in punitive damages. Initially she viewed him as a friend and mentor, but then he began trying to kiss her, running his hands over her, and making sexual comments. She repeatedly fended him off for the next five years, until she was terminated. During her tenure, she complained to other company executives as well as the HR director, but a typical response was, “what are you going to do, he’s the president of the company.” By the time she decided to sue after her termination, the 300-day deadline for complaining of sexual harassment under federal law had passed, but she was well within the four-year statute of limitations for battery in the state where she worked (Myers v. Central Florida Investments, Inc., 11th Cir, Jan. 2010).
Tips: It is critical to establish an effective internal avenue for employees to raise serious concerns about top executives. Once a complaint goes external, defending it is much more expensive. Consider using an outside party such as Vigilant to conduct an investigation on the company’s behalf and report the results to an appropriate entity such as the board of directors. Company owners should consider establishing a process now, before any issues arise.
This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.