LITIGATION VALUE: $800,000+
If an executive learns that a regional manager has sponsored a bachelor party in the warehouse, hired a stripper, offered to “deflower” the bride, taken an employee to a sex store, received a lap dance, and allowed a pervert dressed up like Benjamin Franklin to make a lewd statement to the receptionist, she should fire him. As soon as possible. Anything else and the company is looking at significant liability. Of course, at Dunder Mifflin, Jan is likely caught in a Catch-22. As soon as she fires Michael, she could be facing a charge for her own conduct in having an affair with her subordinate. Ah, what a tangled web we weave….
As this week’s episode colorfully illustrates, it is not enough to have an anti-harassment policy. Dunder Mifflin has one (as Michael mentioned- twice) and look what happened. Rather, employers must demonstrate that they take the policy seriously and that they are committed to stopping sexual harassment in the workplace. If they can’t, a court is likely to find the policy ineffective. And when it does, the company can say goodbye to its affirmative defense and say hello to punitive damages.