Winston-Salem partner Robin Shea spoke with HR Dive about the recent court decision in Parker v. Reema Consulting Services, Inc., which determined a false rumor spread about the plaintiff violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act on the basis of sex discrimination and harassment.
After soaring through the ranks at her new job, Parker quickly learned of a rumor swirling around that she had slept with her boss to gain corporate favor and soon faced “open resentment and disrespect” from co-workers. A manager also told her that, while he had “great things” planned for her, he would no longer be able to stand behind her and recommend her for promotions due to the rumor, and she was eventually fired.
The plaintiff quickly sued, alleging a hostile work environment claim for discrimination on the basis of sex, retaliatory termination and discriminatory termination on the basis of the employer not adhering to its “three-warning” rule. As these kinds of rumors are based in the perception that women (but not men) use sex to gain success, the appellate court ruled in favor of Parker, saying the alleged conduct was gender-based.
In a previous Q&A on the basics of Title VII compliance, Robin told HR Dive that she suggests employers can improve compliance with Title VII through manager training and a responsive process that will allow employees the opportunity to come forward without fear of retaliation.
As managers are out on the floor, they are often the first to respond to discrimination or harassment claims and should be thoroughly briefed on the different ways discrimination can manifest, tips to recognize it in the moment and steps for remediation and prevention.
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