Friday, July 20, 2012

Two Wrongs Don't Give Her the Right

Landing a new job may not always be what you expect especially when your new supervisor begins to force himself on you. Knowing that your supervisor has the ability to terminate your employment, what would you do? Christina Mativa, a former employee of Bald Head Island Management, Inc. (BHIM), learned that "silent suffering" is not the answer. Mativa's supervisor made sexually explicit comments, left pornographic pictures on her desk, and ultimately forced himself on her. Rather than reporting the incidents, Mativa stayed silent. Surprisingly, before Mativa complained to her employer, her supervisor tattled on himself. BHIM took immediate action and ultimately terminated his employment. After her supervisor's termination, Mativa filed suit against BHIM alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge. In her complaint, she claims that co-workers as well as management treated her differently after she participated in the investigation. BHIM denied the allegations and in response pointed out that they had taken immediate action and spoken with employees to insure Mativa was not treated differently. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts grant of summary judgment and dismissed the case against BHIM.

Mativa made two mistakes which killed her own case. First, she could not prove that her employer had taken a tangible employment action against her. She was not demoted, terminated, or reassigned, which the court views as tangible employment actions. Instead she claimed her promotion was a tangible employment action because she allegedly received it due to her "silent suffering". Second, she failed to report the alleged harassment. The court declined to accept Mativa's explanation for not immediately reporting the incidents. Employees should take note that in order for an employer to enforce company policy they must first be notified of violations. For more information about this case click here..

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