Sexual harassment: Is an after-the-fact complaint valid?

Maintenance Department Group Leader Al Lockhart possessed roving eyes and roving hands. Ann Callahan, a worker in his group, found his touching, rubbing, and suggestive remarks offensive, but didn't complain about it while employed.

05/01/1999


Maintenance Department Group Leader Al Lockhart possessed roving eyes and roving hands. Ann Callahan, a worker in his group, found his touching, rubbing, and suggestive remarks offensive, but didn't complain about it while employed.

However, 2 wk after being laid off as part of a workforce reduction, Callahan wrote a letter to Lockhart's boss, Maintenance Foreman Joe Kolte, protesting the group leader's behavior and threatening to sue "unless something was done about it."

Kolte conducted a discreet investigation, decided there was some truth to Callahan's allegations. He reprimanded Lockhart and put him on notice that any further incidents or problems of this kind would result in his dismissal. He telephoned Callahan, thanked her for her letter, and told her he had "warned Lockhart about the matter."

"If you think I'll settle for that, you're nuts," Callahan replied angrily.

Question: What further action, if any, would you take in Kolte's place?

Walker's decision: "There's not much more you can do at this point," Plant Engineer Len Walker said when informed of Callahan's threat. "For one thing, sexual harassment must be made known at the time it occurs; after-the-fact disclosure is rarely acknowledged by the court as perceived hostile environment. Also, for a harassment charge to have weight, evidence must be received that the behavior altered the conditions of the victim's employment. Barring that, there's no case."





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