Employment Law and Discrimination
Employment Law and Discrimination
The intent of this paper is for the author to review the "You be the Judge: Sexual Harassment" video and analyze each of the elements of this cause of action, the applicable defenses, and the bases for the Judge's ruling. Additionally, the author will analyze the potential civil liability of both the employee and the employer. Last, the author will analyze the different liability in this case if the sexual harasser were an independent contractor versus an employee.
Cause of Action
In this scenario, the plaintiff is filing a suit against the defendant for sexual harassment in the workplace. There is a history of pranks within the office staff that are inappropriate in nature. The plaintiff explains that there are four people working in the office, including himself. The other two males and the defendant routinely send inappropriate emails to each other. The plaintiff says that he has always gotten rid of the inappropriate pranks in the past and ignored the situation. In the current situation discussed in the suit, the defendant placed a screensaver on the plaintiff’s computer depicting a female stripper. While the screensaver was on his monitor, a supervisor walked through the area and witnessed the prank.
The plaintiff is arguing that he was overlooked for a promotion because the supervisor saw the inappropriate screensaver. He believes that it is not his fault the supervisor saw this, and it was the defendant’s fault. Therefore, the defendant is the reason he did not get the promotion. The plaintiff argues if the defendant had not been inappropriate at work, he would have been given a promotion. He now believes the last four years of working there has been for nothing. The defendant does not believe she was in the wrong for what she did. The defendant states the plaintiff never complained in the past and participated in previous pranks or office jokes. The defendant was under the impression that the jokes were a part of the office atmosphere. The defendant also explains there were never any discussions between the plaintiff and other co-workers regarding the inappropriate acts. She states if the plaintiff had expressed concern for the behaviors, the other colleagues would have respected his position.
The judge asked both the defendant and plaintiff if they remembered signing a sexual harassment policy through the human resources department at their place of employment. Neither of them remembered this piece of information. The judge’s ruling was in favor of the defendant. The judge believes that the nature of the prank was normal for the office atmosphere. There were no previous complaints filed or concerns expressed by the plaintiff. The judge believes the only reason the plaintiff is filing a suit at this time is because he believed he lost a possible promotion and believed his reaction was unreasonable towards the defendant. However, there is no evidence given by the plaintiff showing where he would have received the promotion otherwise. The judge does not find any evidence of sexual harassment in this case and states the suit has no merit.
Because the judge ruled in favor of the defendant, the defendant can file a suit against the plaintiff for defamation and or emotional distress caused by the case. Emotional distress is controversial within the court system. However, all courts do require the behavior to be outrageous. Courts also agree in requiring severe emotional distress (Mallor, Barnes, Bowers, & Langvardy, 2014, p. 183). In this case, the defendant could express to the court how the plaintiff treated her at the workplace because of the accusations of her co-worker. Part of her defense could be sleepless nights, stress therapy, and any anxiety medication that her doctor may have put her on.
Independent Contractor vs. Employee
When a business or employer hires a person as an independent contractor, there are aspects of the position that are different from that of a regular employee. The employer will not have the contractor go through the same training and orientations as the regular employee. Sometimes, this may be because it is a short assignment. The contracted employee does not need to know everything about a company the way a regular employee would.
According to The Yale Law Journal, “employers exert less control over the manner in which they perform their duties.” Contracted workers have not signed as many agreements to policies within the workplace as a regular employee. It is not a requirement for an employer to require a contract employee to sign the sexual harassment policy. If the company decides to forego this requirement, it will open them up to possible liabilities from regular employees. If a contracted employee makes inappropriate jokes such as in this case, the company could have been sued instead of the regular employee.
Mallor, J., Barnes, A. J., Bowers, L. T., & Langvardy, A., (2014). Business law (16th ed.). New York, NY. McGraw-Hill/Irwin
Tarantolo, D. (2006). From employment to contract: Section 1981 and antidiscrimination law for the independent contractor workforce. The Yale Law Journal, 116(1), 170-215. Retrieved from