The case studies below are just two of many cases in our court systems. They clearly show that things aren't so clear when it comes to harassment lawsuits.
Waitress May Proceed With Harassment Action Although She Did Not Use Procedure To Complain
As printed in the Foodservice.com Newsletter
An Illinois federal judge has ruled that a waitress who quit because of persistent sexual harassment can proceed to trial with her claim even though she never formally complained to her supervisors. At her job interview, the waitress was given, and she acknowledged receipt of, an employment handbook that provided a procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints. The restaurant maintained blank forms for making complaints and a locked mailbox. The waitress was hired on August 1, 1998. The waitress admitted signing the form for the handbook, but did not remember receiving the handbook or being aware of the complaint box.
Beginning about August 18, the waitress was subjected to sexual harassment, including inappropriate touching and verbal harassment. The waitress did not complain until August 28, when she complained to an assistant manager about the bus boys, stating "they were pigs and they kept grabbing me and touching me." The manager told her to "brush it off." A few days later a cook grabbed her breasts. The waitress did not mention the incident. However, a day later, one of the managers joked about the incident. The harassment continued and the waitress claimed she complained about "general harassment".
On September 12, the waitress quit. The waitress sued and the restaurant's response included the argument that the restaurant was not liable because the waitress failed to bring the conduct to the attention of management. In allowing the waitress' claim to proceed, the court stated that although the waitress had not followed an established complaint procedure, she had cited instances of direct interaction with management that could have alerted the restaurant to some probability that a hostile environment existed.
Judge Dismisses Sex Harassment Case Against The Precinct Restaurant
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A former server's sexual harassment suit against The Precinct restaurant was thrown out this week by U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith. Although there was unseemly behavior, the judge noted, the steakhouse management at 311 Delta Ave., Columbia Tusculum, was not responsible.
Further, when Christy Yunger complained, general manager Tony Ricci disciplined the offenders promptly and stiffened a penalty after consulting with owner Jeff Ruby. "The judge did what she was supposed to do with garbage," Mr. Ruby said on Thursday. "She threw it out."
Ms. Yunger, of Groesbeck, said abuse began on her first day in September, 1995, with remarks about her body, and it escalated to questions and speculations about her sexual preferences. On October 28, 1995, bartender Mike Daffin exposed himself and assistant manager David Wilson suggested she might enjoy sex with Mr. Daffin, Ms. Yunger said. Three days later, she complained to Mr. Ricci.
He called a meeting on Nov. 2 and told Mr. Daffin and Mr. Wilson they would be on probation for the next 30 days. Mr. Daffin quit. After a discussion with Mr. Ruby, Mr. Ricci dropped the probation and suspended Mr. Wilson for two weeks without pay.
Ms. Yunger said illegal retaliation began immediately when she was assigned too many customers and co-workers stopped speaking to her. She quit on Nov. 5 after Mr. Ricci accused her of smoking marijuana at the restaurant, an allegation she denied.
Judge Beckwith first separated harassment claims against co-workers and supervisors: The Precinct was not liable for coworkers' behavior because Ms. Yunger said nothing to managers before the incident involving Mr. Daffin. Further, Mr. Ricci disciplined Mr. Daffin and Mr. Wilson promptly.
Assuming Mr. Wilson was a supervisor, The Precinct might be liable if his coarse remarks created a sexually hostile environment. However, that claim failed because Mr. Ruby and The Precinct had an explicit policy against sexual harassment and Mr. Wilson knew it.
As for retaliation, there was no evidence of management involvement in coworkers' silent treatment or the number of patrons assigned to Ms. Yunger's tables. Similarly, Ms. Yunger quit after being accused of smoking dope and admitting she held a marijuana pipe in the banquet kitchen. There was no evidence the accusation was retaliation, Judge Beckwith said on Tuesday, granting pretrial summary judgment to The Precinct on all claims.