Case: Adams v. Family Innovations, LLC, U.S. District Court, W.D. N.C., April 13, 2017
Practical Counsel: All employers MUST have an anti-harassment policy that is provided to all employees. It provides proof that employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct harassment and, if an employee does not report harassment as instructed by such a policy, the employer has an affirmative defense to an employee’s harassment claims.
Court Holding: In this employment discrimination lawsuit, the Employer was granted summary judgment, defeating the employee’s claims, because she failed to report alleged sexual harassment as required by employer’s anti-harassment policy which was included within employee handbook.
U.S. Supreme Court precedent provides, in cases where the employee has not suffered a tangible adverse employment action, an employer can raise the Faragher-Ellerth defense to defeat an employee’s harassment claim. This defense has two elements: (1) that the employer exercised reasonable care in preventing/correcting harassment; and (2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.
In this case, Family Innovations had an anti-harassment policy and the plaintiff, when she was hired, signed an employee handbook acknowledgment. The Employee Handbook says “[a]ny employee who is aware of any instances of sexual harassment should report the alleged behavior to a non-offending supervisor or manager.” The plaintiff did not report the alleged harassment to anyone at Family Innovations.
Determining that plaintiff knew harassment policy existed, signed employee acknowledgment form, and admitted that she did not report any alleged harassment, the court granted summary judgment to Family Innovations as a matter of law.
For More Information: If you have any questions about this article, other employment matters, or your organization wants to ensure that it has sufficient anti-harassment policy, contact Merritt Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-556-0411.
Merritt Green leads the employment practice at General Counsel, P.C., a law firm located in McLean, VA representing businesses, non-profit organizations, and individuals throughout the DC Metro area.