When employees are subjected to sexual harassment, their employers are supposed to take action to mitigate the situation and protect the affected employees. If they fail to do so, the aggrieved worker can file a civil lawsuit against them and take other measures to receive help.
The Cherry Creek School District in Denver, Colorado is facing issues due to an employee who claims she had to deal with numerous instances of sexual harassment during a conversation with a co-worker.
Employee accused of sexual harassment was not terminated as required
The sexual harassment policy for the Cherry Creek School District states that there is zero tolerance for such conduct. However, the school has conceded that a male employee had in fact asked a female school psychologist for topless photos, and yet he is still employed in his position.
The employee in question ultimately resigned from her position at the school out of frustration over how the school district handled the whole situation, shortly after telling the local news about the incident. She was a single mother who held a position helping special needs children at Heritage Elementary in Centennial, Colorado. One of her daughters attends the school, so she cannot completely avoid seeing and interacting with this male employee who was responsible for the harassment.
The woman believes the employee may have felt too comfortable around her given their previous working relationship. She has previously talked with him about her personal struggles and problems in his office. On one occasion, while the two were using the Snapchat app to communicate and exchange pictures, the male co-worker suddenly asked her for a topless photo. As their conversation progressed, he asked her for topless pictures through the mobile app several more times.
When she confronted him on their first day back to school after this exchange, he denied that the conversation ever happened. Because Snapchat normally deletes conversations automatically, he assumed that there was no evidence of their exchange. However, she used a second phone to take a picture of the screen, and preserved the evidence in this way.
When she showed the pictures of the conversation to her immediate supervisor, she was essentially told not to inform the principal or tell anyone else at the school. About a month later, she decided to finally tell the principal because she did not feel comfortable being around him anymore. The school put him on a brief leave, but no other disciplinary action was ever taken against him. The victim was not notified that the male employee would be returning to the school eventually, and she was shocked to see him come back to work as normal. After making her complaint, the woman also felt like other co-workers began ostracizing her, as she was kept in the dark about what was happening regarding his discipline and several co-workers began avoiding interactions with her.
The school district did not grant an interview to the news organization that broke the story. The school district’s only response was through email.
The school district’s spokeswoman stated in her email to the news outlet that the employee in question was investigated for allegations of misconduct and appropriate actions were taken against him. He was also admonished and told not engage in this kind of harassing behavior again.
Furthermore, the spokeswoman stated that the district’s policy is to investigate every complaint of sexual harassment or employee misconduct as it is received and make disciplinary decisions on a case by case basis. The school district’s standard procedure is to place an employee on leave while an investigation occurs. The school also denies the victim’s claim that no one ever contacted her about the situation and the outcome of the school’s investigations. According to them, a human resources officer did notify her of the actions against the male employee, and the fact that he would be returning to work when the leave period expired.
The victim says they are lying and she has consistently stated that no one from the district ever said anything to her regarding her co-worker, his discipline, or his return after she formally complained about his actions. At the time of the report, the man responsible for this situation was still working at the school and he declined requests for interviews.
What are an employer’s responsibilities?
Employers have an affirmative duty to create a workplace that is free from discrimination, harassment, and other issues that impede a worker’s ability to perform his or her work duties and earn a living. If the employer breaches this duty, an employee who is affected can bring a lawsuit seeking a number of different remedies. Such relief can include wages they would have earned in their position, damages for emotional distress, an additional amount in punitive damages, or equitable relief such as reinstatement or providing letters of recommendation and positive references.
Learn more about how to take action against a problem employer
There are lawyers in the Denver area who dedicate their entire practices to labor and employment issues. Attorneys at Anderson Barkley, LLC are available to assist with issues related to discrimination, unpaid wages, workplace harassment, and other employment and labor problems.