The EEOC has announced that it has reached a settlement with Winfield Rubber of Alabama to resolve claims filed by a manager who responded to a complaint of harassment.  Now, admittedly, we only have the press release to go on, but if these facts are true, we hope even the greenest of HR professionals would not repeat Winfield Rubber’s mistakes.

The allegation:  the plant manager, Mark Holmes, received complaints of sexual harassment from an employee and, after investigating it, found that there had been harassment and fired the harasser.  Apparently someone higher up did not like this decision and insisted on rehiring the harasser over the plant manager’s objections.  The plant manager was then fired for complaining about the rehire of the harasser. What is especially egregious about this is that apparently the harasser confessed to having engaged in the harassment and yet the owners overturned the termination.


The Takeaway for Employers:  Do not retaliate, duh.  A more subtle takeaway:  Do not undermine your manager’s authority by countermanding discipline already issued.

We don’t have all of the facts, or any of them from the company’s side, so it is possible that someone felt that a less severe discipline was appropriate. However, the time to raise those objections was before the final decision was made.  Raising them after the fact will only make the company seem like they do not take complaints of harassment seriously and worse, are hostile to such complaints.

What else would an employee think in this situation?  Every single employee in that plant is very likely to think twice before complaining about any harassing conduct while still employed.  Instead employees will quit and then file lawsuits.  Obviously, this makes it impossible for employers to address situations before situations arise to a hostile work environment.