Employees have the right to work in an environment free of harassment. However, women are still sometimes treated unfairly in the workplace. Not only are they often paid less than men and are less likely to be promoted, but they also face unwanted advances of a sexual nature that can hinder their performance on the job. When the company is aware of the sexual harassment, it must take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation.
When they fail to do so, the employee may be able to sue. That was recently the case for Asarco, a mining company based in Arizona. A female former employee sued the company and was recently awarded punitive damages totaling $300,000.
The employment dispute started after the woman joined the company in 2005. She held several positions in the company before ending up in a filter plant. Asarco did not have a restroom for her to use, so the company rented one.
On the walls, the woman saw offensive graffiti, including explicit pictures of herself. The graffiti was never removed, even though the woman complained to management several times. She later quit.
The woman sued the company for sexual harassment. The court awarded a high amount in punitive damages to punish Asarco, which blatantly ignored the woman’s complaints time after time. The company did nothing to investigate the claim or resolve the complaint. The jury originally awarded the woman $900,000 in punitive damages, but that was reduced by the judge to the $300,000 statutory cap.
Many people consider sexual harassment as unwanted touching or sexual advances, but lewd imagery can be considered harassment as well, as see in this case. Offensive drawings or cartoons may seem funny and not a big deal to some people, but they should not be tolerated in the workplace. They can be especially hurtful when they are directed toward a specific employee. Instead of feeling like a valued, respected employee, the woman was ignored and left to fend for herself.
Source: East Valley Tribune, “Court upholds punitive damages in sexual harassment case,” Dec. 10, 2014
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