A woman who works for an employer in a state that borders Minnesota has filed suit claiming a former colleague grabbed her breasts and then commented about her chest to two other men, neither of whom were employees of the company. This incident happened at a bar in Minnesota after a day in which the woman and her co-workers had attended a business conference and then gone to dinner. The woman said that her colleague’s actions took her by complete surprise.
When she reported the incident internally the following day, the company’s ombudsman indicated that the company would not try to contact the two men who witnessed the incident since they were not company employees. The man who allegedly engaged in this action was ordered to return home from the conference early.
According to the woman’s lawsuit, this was not the first time this man had been accused of sexual harassment. Another woman allegedly reported the man in 2016 for inappropriate behavior, just prior to his being moved into a management position. Reportedly, nothing came out of the company’s investigation.
In this case, the woman who filed suit claims she suffered severe emotional distress, even to the point of not being able to return to work. She claims in her suit that she was essentially forced to resign, presumably because of her company’s inaction, last summer.
This case illustrates a couple of points for employees in Minneapolis and the greater Twin Cities area. For one, there is sometimes a culture in certain workplaces that what happens after hours at office parties, conferences, and the like does not matter, especially when people are drinking and having a good time. Such, however, is not the case. Employers must take steps to prevent and address sexual harassment at all company-related functions. Another point is that employers must thoroughly investigate claims of sexual harassment, even when the accusation involves a popular employee or may result in embarrassment to the company.
Dealing with these issues requires a deft legal touch. For this reason, those confronting sexual harassment matters should consider consulting with a skilled legal team who can fight to protect their interests.