A hospital recently prevailed in an unusual sexual harassment case brought by a female technician, Sara Debord. The alleged facts of the case spanned over five years and are somewhat convoluted, involving Facebook posts, cold hands, sexual harassment accusations, and payroll fraud allegations.
Debord worked as a nuclear medicine technician in the department of radiology, under the direct supervision of Leonard Weaver, the director of radiology. Debord began work in 2004 and claimed that shortly thereafter, Weaver began placing his hands under her sleeves and in the back of her shirt on a regular basis. She claimed this continued for five years, though she never reported the behavior to management or human resources.
On July 6, 2009, Debord posted an odd series of Facebook status updates on her personal profile throughout the work day. The Facebook updates were as follows:
“Love it when my boss adds an extra $600.00 on my paycheck for hours I didn’t even work.”
“Sooo disappointed . . . can’t believe what a snake my boss is.”
“The MRI tech is getting paid for doing MRI even though he’s not registered and myself, nor the CT tech are getting paid for our areas…and he tells me ‘good luck taking it to HR because you’re not supposed to know that’ plus he adds money on peoples checks if he likes them (I’ve been one of them)…and he needs to keep his creepy hands to himself…just an all around d-bag!!”
Weaver and the other members of the radiology department all saw the Facebook posts and the department suffered disruption throughout the day due to the posts.
The same day as the Facebook postings, Debord visited human resources to complain of gender-based pay discrimination in her department. Weaver joined the meeting to confront her about her status updates, and Debord denied authoring the posts and claimed someone must have used her cell phone to hack her account. She stated Weaver once added money to her paycheck and did not fix the error when notified. She also stated Weaver was a “pervert” who constantly touched females with his “cold hands.” After an investigation, Debord was terminated and she subsequently filed suit for sex discrimination and retaliation.
False Claims Discovered
The other female employees stated Weaver touched their arms sometimes to demonstrate how unusually cold his hands were. They stated the behavior, while perhaps odd, was not sexual or harassing. Furthermore, Debord could provide no explanation for why she failed to report questionable touching for over five years. For these reasons, the court found no sexual harassment occurred.
In regard to her retaliation claim, the court found that Debord was in actuality terminated for posting inflammatory comments about Weaver on the internet, bad-mouthing Weaver to fellow co-workers, discussing confidential information regarding HR investigations with co-workers, disrupting the workplace, knowingly keeping an overpayment in 2007, and lying to human resources on three different occasions regarding the Facebook posts. Debord had no evidence to counter any of these accusations and admitted to many of them. Therefore, her case was dismissed.
Employers should not have to face unfounded or falsified harassment or retaliation claims. If an employee has brought a false claim against your company, contact HKM today for help defending your case.