That's What She Said

Sexual Harassment


It would be pretty safe to say that any time a company’s regional manager asks a female employee to act out a lesbian love scene during its anti-harassment training you have problems. Expensive problems. Not only does the company face liability for Michael’s actions in contributing to the hostile working environment but his treatment of and attitude towards the seriousness of sexual harassment claims could jeopardize the company’s ability to defend itself in the future.

One of an employer’s primary defenses to a sexual harassment claim is that it took reasonable care to prevent and correct any sexually harassing behavior and that the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the employer’s policy. To prove this, a company must show, among other things, that it has a sexual harassment policy and that it provides training to its employees on that policy – just like Dundler Mifflin’s corporate office was trying to do before Michael got involved.

Of course, if a company’s managers act in such a way that employees would reasonably believe that reporting sexual harassment to the company would be futile, a Court could (and, in most cases will) find that the employer did not take the necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment. And there goes your defense. Here, I’d say that Michael blew any chance for Dundler Mifflin to use this defense when he openly mocked the harassment training; publicly denounced the need to have an anti-harassment policy; and then, on the same day the training was conducted, forcibly kissed a female subordinate and told her that she was giving him a “boner.”

What does this mean? It means that someone from Dundler Mifflin’s corporate office is going to write a large check, either in the form of either a bad jury verdict or a settlement. And for this case I’m putting the final price tag at over $700,000 including all defense costs, attorneys fees (for both the employee and the company), back pay ,front pay, and, of course, $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages (given some of Michael’s comments and past antics it would probably be more but the statute caps the damages). Of course, if there are any other related claims the value would be more!