California workers know that sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. However, if one employee flashes their genitals to another employee while at work, is it automatically sexual harassment? Not according to a U.S. district court in Mississippi, which recently threw out such a case.
In the Mississippi case, a woman who worked on a brake assembly line at a Nissan auto manufacturing plant claimed a male colleague exposed himself to her at work. Approximately two months later, she reported the incident to a co-worker, and the co-worker then reported the incident to human resources. When human resources investigated the claim, the woman also accused her male colleague of showing her sexually explicit photos of himself and making inappropriate comments to her. The woman was moved to another work area following the investigation, but she later quit because the male co-worker allegedly glared at her. She filed a lawsuit against Nissan, claiming the company fostered a hostile work environment.
Nissan successfully petitioned the court to throw out the lawsuit because according to the judge, the plaintiff failed to report the alleged sexual harassment to Nissan right away, which indicated she didn’t feel her male co-worker’s behavior was serious. The court also noted the co-worker in question was not the plaintiff’s direct supervisor, meaning he could not stop her from reporting him to human resources. Finally, the court ruled Nissan properly investigated the incident and made appropriate changes to the work environment.
California residents who are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace may benefit by speaking to a lawyer about their legal rights. A lawyer could possibly review a claimant’s situation and work to help him or her receive compensation for wrongdoing on the part of his or her employer.
Source: HR Morning, “‘But he showed me his … Why can’t I sue for sexual harassment?’,” Christian Schappel, Jan. 27, 2016