University overreacted by firing chin-chucking
professor for harassment.
A state appeals court ruled that a university did not have
the foundation to fire a tenured male professor for sexual
harassment. He had approached his department chair in
the lounge area, said “Hi, sweetie,” and “chucked” her chin.
The department chair filed a sexual-harassment complaint. The professor was fired under the university’s zero-tolerance policy for harassment. He filed state and federal
due-process and contract claims. The court found that
there appeared to be a rush to judgment and overreaction.
There was no prior warning to the professor regarding
his behavior being unwelcome or violating the sexual-harassment rules. The department chair claimed that the
professor should have known his behavior was unwelcome
because of her “stony silence” reaction on a prior chin-chuck incident. The court found this insufficient to give
fair warning. The incident itself could hardly be characterized as sexual harassment under any legal definition of that
term. Haegert v. U. of Evansville (Ind. Ct. App., 2011).
Is chin-chucking sexual
harassment? Is calling an older
worker “old man” and profane
names age harassment? Read
these cases and more.
Be sure you really hang up before you say what you
really think—race and sex comments warrant discharge
and union’s refusal to pursue grievance.
A company manager gave training on its anti-harassment
policy and zero-tolerance requirements. The next day,
an employee present at the training left a voicemail for
that trainer to complain about his supervisor. (So far, a
protected act.) Then, failing to realize he had not actually hung up, he decided to “entertain” his coworkers by
launching into a profane derogatory tirade of the manager
and the anti-harassment training she had given. He used
the N-word and made gross comments about her breasts.
All was clearly recorded on the voicemail. He was fired,
despite his 29-year tenure with the company. The union
then refused to pursue his grievance process to the arbitration level and withdrew. The employee sued the company
for unfair discharge, as well as the union for breach of its
duty of fair representation. The court found against him on
both grounds. He had clearly and intentionally violated the
anti-harassment policy’s prohibitions on use of derogatory
racial and sexual epithets and slurs. The union could validly consider this in its decision on which cases it should
take to arbitration and was neither arbitrary nor unfair
in its decision of non-representation. Robeson v. U.S. Steel
Corp. (E.D., Mich., 2011).
BY BOB GREGG
Starbucks failed to accommodate server with dwarfism.
A job applicant had short height because of the condition
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