No one should have to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. If you are dealing with sexual harassment at work and you report it to your employer, you hope they will act on your report. How do actions taken by your employer affect your ability to recover for sexual harassment in court?
Shelita Tucker worked for UPS in Port Allen, Louisiana for three years. One of the subordinates she managed was Larry McCaleb. Tucker claimed McCaleb sexually harassed her for about two years. His alleged sexual harassment involved inappropriate touching. Soon after the incident with the inappropriate touching, Tucker reported what had happened to the business manager. McCaleb was taken out of service while the investigation was ongoing. The next day, Tucker filed a complaint with the UPS Compliance Line. She subsequently also filed a report with the local police department.
The next week, Tucker was on a scheduled vacation. While she as on vacation, UPS investigated the matter and suspended McCaleb. When McCaleb was allowed to return to work, UPS took corrective action including meeting with McCaleb, counseling him about proper behavior and relevant policies, and prohibiting him from going near Tucker. McCaleb was also convicted of battery and sentenced to 90-days in jail. Tucker reported McCaleb never talked to or touched her again. The one-time McCaleb entered her work area, she reported it and UPS addressed it. Tucker claimed she still felt unsafe at work because McCaleb also worked at the facility. However, she said she was still about to perform her job. She claimed McCaleb would stare at her as she walked in or out of work.
Tucker eventually quit. She received a right-to-sue letter after filing an EEOC charge and filed a lawsuit against UPS, claiming a hostile work environment from the alleged sexual harassment. UPS filed a summary judgment motion, which the district court granted. Tucker appealed.
Tucker claimed McCaleb had harassed her for approximately two years. However, Tucker was only entitled to recover for acts that occurred within 300 days prior to when she filed her EEOC charge, unless there were continuing violations. However, the district court had held the incidents prior to UPS taking action were not actionable. Tucker agreed. Although Tucker claimed the court should consider the subsequent incidents as part of the full scope of McCaleb’s behavior, she did not provide any support for that claim. Thus, the appellate court considered only two incidents – the inappropriate touching incident and an incident where McCaleb was waiting in the dark for Tucker.
In order for there to be an abusive working environment, the harassment must be severe or pervasive. See Aryain v. Wal-Mart Stores Tex. LP. Here, after Tucker reported the sexual harassment, UPS immediately took steps to protect Tucker while the investigation was underway. After the investigation, UPS moved Tucker to a separate work area and forbade McCaleb from going in there. UPS also provided counseling to McCaleb about professionalism and sexual harassment, and provided Tucker with an escort to help her feel safer. Tucker also admitted the sexual harassment had stopped. The appellate court agreed UPS took sufficient remedial action to avoid liability under Title VII and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Tucker’s claims.
If you are dealing with sexual harassment at work, the best case scenario is your employer takes appropriate steps to protect you and stop the harassment. However, if not, a good attorney can advise you on possible legal remedies.
Additional Sources: Shelita Tucker v. United Parcel Service, Inc.
Article Written By Berniard Law Firm
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