How Employers Should Respond to Sexual Harassment Complaints

You may have heard about the sexual harassment case involving Taylor Swift. Although it was not your typical employment discrimination claim, as Taylor Swift was a third-party and not an employee, it still highlights how an employer should respond to such claims made against an employee. If you bring a claim of sexual harassment to the attention of your employer, and they do not take the necessary steps to address it, then you should discuss your situation with an employment law attorney.

Taylor Swift’s sexual harassment case

Surprisingly enough, this all began when Taylor Swift was sued by a former radio host, David Mueller, who worked for KYGO in Denver. He was initially seeking $3 million from Swift because he alleged she falsely accused him of groping her. His claim was based on slander. However, Swift filed a countersuit for sexual assault, seeking only a dollar in damages.

According to Swift, Mueller grabbed her buttocks during a photo and she reported it to her bodyguard. The bodyguard confronted the radio host and he was escorted from the venue. The radio station was later contacted and the incident was reported, after which an investigation was conducted and Mueller was terminated.

How KYGO handled the complaint of sexual assault

First, the radio station conducted an investigation into Swift’s allegations. Most likely the station determined that it was “more probable than not” that its employee (Mueller) was guilty of sexual assault as Swift had alleged. This is a common standard employers use in making termination decisions. If they did not terminate him after a finding such as this, then it could put the company at risk for additional liability in the future.

This incident, as well as how the company handled it, could be used against it if there were future allegations of sexual harassment made by a co-worker against Mueller. That co-worker could easily bring a negligent retention claim, which means the employer improperly retained an employee after having notice of the same type of behavior.

Some factors that should be considered during an investigation

When an employer is faced with an investigation of sexual assault or harassment claim, there are a few common factors that should be considered in order to determine the credibility of the claim. First, is the claim plausible? In other words, is it believable that the employee would have committed the alleged conduct? Second, the demeanor of the accused, i.e., when asked about the allegations, did the accused seem to be lying or telling the truth. Of course, this determination is relatively subjective.

Two additional factors that are very important are motive and corroboration. Did the person making the allegations have any motive to lie? Will they gain anything by making the allegation? As far as corroboration, is there any additional evidence that will support the alleged victim’s version of the events?

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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