The law provides that Arizonans should have a safe working environment free of things such as sexual harassment. Even though most employees understand that harassment is wrong, it unfortunately still happens in many work environments.
When it does occur, victims should feel comfortable reporting it to management without retaliation. It is illegal to fire or otherwise punish someone for reporting sexual harassment. According to a finding of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, however, that is what an Arizona mental hospital did to a female employee.
The EEOC investigated the employment dispute and found that the victim, a security officer for Arizona State Hospital, suffered from severe harassment. The state failed to report and investigate the allegations. On top of that, the woman was eventually fired from her job for reporting the sexual harassment. The woman did receive a settlement from the state for $250,000.
The harassment began in 2009 and the woman filed a lawsuit in 2011. During that two-year period, the woman was subject to sexual messages and remarks, physical contact, lewd gestures and pornographic videos. During that time, the woman was unfairly suspended and basically demoted, as she was given undesirable assignments at work.
Attorneys for the Department of Health Services claimed that no records exist showing incidences of sexual harassment. The state hospital CEO and former interim health department director refused to discuss why the harassment was never investigated and why nobody was punished. Both, as well as the lead attorney, have been put on administrative leave.
While many people may think jokes and comments of a sexual nature are funny, they can be perceived as cruel and hostile to others. Nobody wants to work in an offensive work environment and the end result may be less productivity and a negative public perception.
Source: ABC 15, “State pays $250k for ‘severe’ sexual harassment at AZ mental hospital” Dave Biscobing, May 22, 2015
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