The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center recently dismissed one its researchers amid complaints of workplace sexual harassment. Since the #MeToo social media movement raised awareness around the perils of simply being a woman in the workplace, workplaces have been under scrutiny to address the problem of sexual harassment. Those that do not could find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Those that do can avoid one entirely. Danforth Center took action against the employee and thus removed a serious liability issue from their employment culture.
Thomas Brutnell, who holds an associate professorship with the University of Missouri – Columbia, was reported for making comments of a sexual nature and inappropriate conduct. In May, the Danforth Center initiated an investigation into the situation. They placed the Brutnell on administrative leave. In mid-June, the Danforth Center announced plans to end their relationship with Brutnell.
In other words, the Danforth Center did what many of those who find themselves on the wrong end of a sexual harassment suit did not do. They addressed the employee’s concerns, they conducted an investigation, and while they did not go into detail about the employee’s conduct, they felt that their best option was to part ways with him.
How to Handle Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The Danforth Center’s management of the sexual harassment situation is to be admired. Not all employers, however, operate in such a professional manner. If a fellow employee or a supervisor makes unwanted sexual advances, makes crude or lewd jokes, touches you inappropriately, or otherwise makes you feel uncomfortable in the workplace, you are not powerless in the situation.
The first thing that you should do is speak up. If not to the offender directly, then tell a supervisor or the HR department about the situation. It is generally best to be direct with the harasser about that fact that the conduct is unwanted. If the behavior continues, you should then follow your company’s procedure for reporting conduct violations. At the very least, the company should conduct an investigation and advise the at-fault employee that his or her conduct is unacceptable.
If the HR department or supervisor does nothing to curb the behavior, you should file a complaint with either the Missouri Department of Labor or the EEOC. These agencies will investigate your claim and attempt to negotiate with your employer. If they find your claim to be valid, they will issue a “right to sue” letter.
At that point, you can have a law firm file a lawsuit against your employer. The lawsuit will state that despite numerous attempts to resolve the situation amicably, the employer made no effort to remedy the situation.
You will be entitled to collect:
- Your backpay multiplied by three,
- Reinstatement of your job,
- Damages for emotional distress,
- And your attorney and court fees.
In addition, your employer may be forced to implement a function process for handling sexual harassment claims.
Contact a Hostile Work Environment Attorney Today
If your employer fails to take your complaints seriously or take remedial action against the offender, you have a right to sue. The Kansas City employment lawyers at HKM Employment can litigate your case if need be.