Swift action taken by HR against all harassment complaints is an effective strategy to avoid liability and litigation.
A case in point is a recent ruling by the federal court from the Western District of Tennessee. In the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Autozone, Inc. and Autozoners, LLC (collectively, “Autozone”), Autozone’s corrective and actionable response to sexual harassment allegations by three female employees against a male store manager for “lewd and obscene” behavior demonstrated the company was not liable.
After charges alleging harassment by were submitted in writing by a female employee regarding the sexual misconduct, Autozone’s HR took immediate action the following day. Within about a week’s time, two other female employees came forward and, partnering with HR, provided statements detailing harassment allegations. The store manager was soon transferred and within approximately two weeks, the manager was fired by Autozone for acts, conduct, inappropriate comments, and loss of confidence detrimental to the company.
Even though the store manager did not have authority over the three employees’ employment status, the court held Autozone’s immediate response by HR demonstrated appropriate corrective action. As a result, the EEOC case was dismissed and the court granted Autozone’s Motion for Summary Judgement.
Empowering employees to voice concerns of ethical misconduct early is a winning strategy to protect a company’s assets and reputation. HR departments and ethics hotlines are proven methods for defendants to deter liabilities.
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