An employee is protected from being fired in retaliation for answering questions during an employer's investigation of suspected sexual harassment, the Supreme Court ruled today.
The unanimous court ruled the federal civil rights law's anti-retaliation provision for employees who report workplace sex or race discrimination also extended to an internal investigation of a supervisor or another worker."Nothing in the statute requires a freakish rule protecting an employee who reports discrimination on her own initiative but not one who reports the same discrimination in the same words when her boss asks a question," Justice David Souter wrote in the opinion.
The ruling decided an important workplace issue. Federal government lawyers said witnesses and victims would be unwilling to cooperate in employer sexual harassment investigations if they faced potential punishment like the loss of their jobs.
It is a new and growing area of law, and just last week the ABA Journal reported that the average settlement for sexual harassment claims jumped from $106,000 to $292,ooo between 2006 and 2008. Employers are growing more and more sensitive to 'neutering' the workplace; eliminating stereotypical jokes and mandating an unsettling political correctness. We have already seen it impact jurists in the courthouse.
Have we gone overboard in compensating for past sins, or are we just now addressing an endemic we ignored for too long?
Pictured above is Anita Hill. Remember her? She had accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of making sexual overtures toward her while she worked under him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In televised hearings, Hill accused Thomas of sexually harassing her with explicit, embarrassing talk after she refused to go on a date with him. In one memorable moment, Hill recounted comments she said Thomas made about a pubic hair placed on his can of Coke. I understand Paul Backman later bought that can of coke on E Bay.
For more details on this ruling, I recommend this post: