May 1, 2007
DID YOU KNOW that an employment policy that requires the prompt reporting of sexual harassment can bar an employee’s claim that is made several months after the allegedly improper conduct?
In the case of Baldwin v. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the Court held that a marketing representative who waited more than three months before coming forward with allegations that her supervisor used profanity on an almost daily basis and referred to female marketing representatives in vulgar and sexist terms, would not have an opportunity to prove her allegations at trial. This was because the employer’s anti-discrimination policy required employees to report such allegations promptly. The Court held that under prior rulings by the United States Supreme Court, an employer avoids liability if (a) it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior, and (b) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities the employer provided. Under the facts described in this case, the Court determined that the alleged incidents of harassment were not sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute sexual harassment and that the employer had established the above affirmative defense.