A female police sergeant was awarded $350,000 in a retaliation claim when her employer transferred her 180 miles away after she complained of sexual harassment. The sergeant, who had worked for the police since 1987, had complained of unwanted sexual advances and a sexual assault by a co-worker.
The investigation by the employer deemed the allegations “nonsustained,” which meant that there was insufficient evidence to either confirm or deny the sexual harassment allegations. The employee then made a second complaint of sexual harassment two years later, alleging that the harassment was continuing. A second investigation ended with a determination that these new allegations were unfounded.
Did the Employer Retaliate Against the Employee for Complaining of Harassment?
The employee’s supervisor took the position that the employee was creating a “hostile work environment” by continuing to make sexual harassment complaints. His solution was to have her transferred away to get a “fresh start” at a new posting that was 180 miles away from her home. There were no consequences for the alleged harasser. The court ruled that there was ample evidence that the employer retaliated against the employee for complaining of harassment (Mys v. Michigan Department of State Police, 6th Cir, March 2018).
Takeaways for Employers
Employees are Protected Against Retaliation for Making Sexual Harassment Complaints
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provides for protection against retaliation for making sexual harassment complaints. Employees are protected even when an investigation reveals insufficient evidence, or when the investigation concludes that there’s no evidence of harassment at all.
Words of Caution for Employers
Employers should never seek to transfer or take other negative employment action against the complaining victim. If you need help with addressing harassment complaints, see Vigilant’s Legal Guide, “Retaliation Claims: How to Avoid Them.” To further educate yourself about topics and updates related to harassment in the workplace, be sure to read our related blogs.
Seek Legal Counsel Before Making the Wrong Move
Don’t get stuck in this scenario. Inquire about the benefits of becoming a Vigilant member. With unlimited access to an employment law attorney, Vigilant can help reduce your exposure to situations like these.