Ninth Circuit ruling revives hostile work case

A Ninth Circuit court ruled that a jury should look into whether preferential treatment for an alleged rapist by an employer constitutes sexual harassment of the victim. This ruling may have significant implications for Arizona workers.

In August 2011, a female employee of the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) was reportedly raped outside of work. The alleged rapist was the subject of three previous complaints. However, he had not received any discipline as a result of those complaints. The man had been on administrative leave at the time of the incident while under investigation for another rape that had been reported a month prior.

Management for IDOC had told staff members to give words of encouragement to the man while he was out of work because he was likely feeling down. The IDOC also reportedly said that it looked forward to the man returning to work.

The woman was denied leave despite the male employee being granted the same type of leave that she requested. Although the woman had a protective order against him, the IDOC still allowed him on the premises citing the fact that he was still an employee. The female victim ultimately resigned and filed a lawsuit that was initially dismissed by a federal court before the Ninth Circuit ruled it should proceed.

If an employee is subject to a hostile work environment, it may be possible to take legal action against an employer. If successful, an employee may be entitled to punitive damages or other relief, such as back pay after a wrongful termination. An attorney may review statements made by managers or other actions taken by a company in an effort to establish that a hostile work environment existed. Witness statements may also help bolster such a claim.

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