Question: We have two employees who just can’t seem to get along. One of the employees brought a harassment complaint against the other alleging, among other things, inappropriate sexual advances and cussing. Can we separate the two employees, by moving the alleged victim to another area, and be done with the situation?
Answer: The short answer is no. Moving an employee instead of conducting an investigation and dealing with the underlying problem could create two additional, and potentially more serious, issues.
First, just moving the alleged victim could open the company up to a retaliation claim, because the move could be an adverse employment action. The alleged victim could argue that their complaint about the harassment was a protected activity, and that the move was an action that deterred others from pursing their rights and changed the conditions of their employment.
Second, the move could embolden the alleged harasser and make the harassment worse, as was the case in a recent court decision involving corrections officers in California.
In that case, when the complaining employee moved to another area, she said the harassment became worse, since the alleged harasser sought her out for additional harassment (Sanchez v. State of California, ED Cal, Feb. 2015).