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EEO & harassment facts › legal cases
(see also data about harassment)

Legal Cases

 

Employers who provide regular anti-harassment training increase their chances of establishing a defense to claims of unlawful harassment. The Supreme Court has held that an employer may be able to avoid or minimize liability for unlawful harassment if it can prove that:
1. it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct harassment; and
2. the employee bringing a claim unreasonably failed to report the harassment to management or otherwise avoid the harm.
The EEOC has stated that, if feasible, employers “should provide training to all employees to ensure that they understand their rights and responsibilities.” It also has stated that "[a]n employer should ensure that its supervisors and managers understand their responsibilities under the organization's anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure. Periodic training of these individuals can help achieve that result.”
Training on harassment and discrimination prevention also can help employers avoid punitive damages. The Supreme Court has made clear that an employer who is sued because of a supervisor’s discrimination or harassment will be shielded from liability for punitive damages if the supervisor’s acts were contrary to the employer’s good faith efforts to comply with the federal anti-discrimination statutes.
In each of the following harassment and discrimination cases, evidence of whether or not the employer provided training was a factor in determining liability or the availability of punitive damages.

EEOC v. Management Hospitality of Racine, Inc., 666 F.3d 422 (7th Cir. 2012): Defendant's sexual harassment policy was not sufficient to insulate it from punitive damages in part because it did not engage in good faith efforts to educate managers about sexual harassment in the workplace.

 

Tepperwien v. Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., 663 F.3d 556 (2d Cir. 2011): Employee was not entitled to punitive damages for retlaiation in part because employer trained all its employees on its anti-harassment policy and provided employees with many avenues to report discrimination, retaliation, or harassment.

 

Monteagudo v. Asociacion de Empleados del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, 554 F.3d 164 (1st Cir. 2009): Punitive damages for manager's sexual harassment of employee were appropriate where employer did not identify any anti-discriination training for supervisors.

 
Rodriguez-Torres v. Caribbean Forms Manufacturer, Inc., 399 F.3d 52 (1st Cir. 2005):  Award of $199,999 in punitive damages for discriminatory discharge was upheld, in part based on evidence that the employer did not provide its employees with anti-discrimination training. 
Holly D. v. California Institute of Technology, 339 F.3d 1158 (9th Cir. 2003):  State university employer established affirmative defense to harassment claim in part based on evidence that it conducted periodic training on sexual harassment.
Ocheltree v. Scollon Productions, 335 F.3d 325 (4th Cir. 2003):  Employer found liable for co-worker harassment where company lacked a clear sexual harassment policy and there was no evidence that it conducted any preventive training.
Godinet v. Management and Training Corp, 5 Fed. Appx. 865 (10th Cir. 2003): Award of $150,000 in punitive damages for intentional discrimination and retaliation was upheld, where the employer offered no evidence of anti-discrimination training of supervisors who were implicated in the employee's claims and the employer took no action after the employee informed it of his intention to file a discrimination suit.

Bishop v. Woodbury Clinical Laboratory, 2010 WL 1525922 (M.D. Tenn. 2010): Employer could not establish affirmative defense to sexual harassment claim where there was no evidence it provided training on its sexual harassment policy and reporting requirements.

 

EEOC v. Caterpillar, Inc., 503 F.Supp. 2d (N.D. Ill. 2007): EEOC's claims for punitive damages were dismissed because of steps the defendant took to prevent sexual harassment, including training on harassment.

Church v. State of Maryland, 180 F.Supp.2d 708 (D.Md. 2002): The State of Maryland successfully established a defense in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a correctional officer. The defense was based in part on evidence that the State effectively implemented an anti-harassment policy; provided training on the policy and complaint procedure for all incoming officers at the correctional training academy; and provided periodic anti-harassment training for supervisors.
Roelen v. Akron Beacon Journal, 199 F.Supp.2d 685 (N.D. Ohio 2002): The employer successfully defended against a harassment claim in part based on evidence that it implemented and enforced an anti-harassment policy and provided mandatory harassment training.
Mancuso v. City of Atlantic City, 193 F.Supp.2d 789 (D. New Jersey 2002): The court denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment in part because of significant questions regarding the employer’s anti-harassment efforts. While the employer did provide some training to its employees, the plaintiff and others contended that they were never provided with any information regarding sexual harassment beyond being required to read and sign the employer’s policy. There also was testimony that the training was not provided with any sort of regularity.
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