Supreme Court Clarifies Harassment Claims
Anderson, Teresa, Security Management
Three recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions clarify employer liability in sexual harassment cases. In ruling on these issues, the justices further refined the definitions of sexual harassment, and in doing so expanded employer liability. The Court also, however, gave employers guidance regarding how to limit their liability.
In one case (Gebser et al v. Lago Vista Independent School District, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 96-1866, 1998), the Court ruled that a school district cannot be held liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by a teacher in its employ unless the district exercises direct control over the teacher, has notice of the harassment, and takes no action to correct the teacher's behavior.
Frank Waldrop was employed at Lago Vista High School (in Lago Vista, Texas) when he met a thirteen-year-old student identified in court documents as Jane Doe. Doe ended up in one of Waldrop's classes when she entered ninth grade.
In the summer of 1992, according to court documents, Waldrop visited Doe's home ostensibly to return a book. Knowing that Doe was alone, Waldrop allegedly initiated sexual contact. That summer, according to court documents, Waldrop and Doe (who was now fifteen) allegedly had numerous sexual encounters, none of which took place on school property. The situation ended in 1993, when a police officer discovered the two and arrested Waldrop.
Until this incident, school officials were reportedly unaware of Waldrop's alleged actions. The only notice given regarding Waldrop was made by parents of other children who had complained that Waldrop made inappropriate remarks in the presence of female students. The high school principal investigated these claims, which Waldrop denied, but could not prove the accusations. These complaints were not passed on to the school …
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Publication information: Article title: Supreme Court Clarifies Harassment Claims. Contributors: Anderson, Teresa - Author. Magazine title: Security Management. Volume: 42. Issue: 8 Publication date: August 1998. Page number: 81+. © 1999 American Society for Industrial Security. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.