$1,000 fine per day for not posting notice of harassment verdict

There once was an employer in Racine.
With a manager whose antics were racy.
The court said, “You lose!”
Now, tell everyone the news.
And if you disobey, it’ll cost you big money.

*** Although I feel rhyming “Racine” with “racy” was pure Shakespeare, I’m fairly certain that Edward Lear’s corpse just pissed itself ***

After the jump, it’s the employer, found liable for sexual harassment, that refused to abide by a court-ordered notice requiring it to inform its employees about the verdict…

* * *

A Wisconsin federal judge has issued a contempt-of-court order against a restaurant-management company for refusing to post a court-ordered notice that the court required in a sexual harassment case. The penalty for failing to post the notice: $1,000 per day.

Here’s the background according to this press release from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

The EEOC had charged in its original lawsuit, EEOC v. Management Hospitality of Racine, Inc., Flipmeastack, Inc., and Salauddin Janmohammed, Case No. 2:06-cv-00715-LA (E.D. Wis.), that the company subjected two teenaged servers to sexual harassment by their manager at an IHOP formerly operated by Flipmeastack in Racine, Wis., in 2005. The case resulted in a $105,000 jury verdict against the defendants in November 2009.

The original order to post the results of the lawsuit was entered almost a year ago, on Aug. 31, 2010. The new contempt findings are the result of a hearing held on May 20 and May 26, 2011. Flipmeastack was found in contempt for continuing to provide management services to 17 IHOP restaurants owned by Janmohammed without posting the notices as required. Janmohammed had refused to allow the posting, and was found in contempt for aiding and abetting Flipmeastack’s contempt.

The contempt order requires the postings to be performed at each of the 17 restaurants by June 2, 2011. It allows EEOC access to the restaurants to monitor whether the postings are there, and provides that Flipmeastack and Janhomammed will incur a fine of $1,000 per day if the posting is not up at all 17 restaurants.

Employers found liable for sexual harassment that fail to comply with court orders are looking for trouble.

That is the message from the Wisconsin court and from the EEOC. But if you think that this decision stinks of cheese and brats, you’re mistaken. This could happen in any federal or state court.

How can employers help avoid this outcome? There are many way, but I’ll give you three easy ones that may prevent a lawsuit altogether.

  • Be more proactive. Make sure that anti-harassment policies are kept current and disseminated to employees and supervisors. Then train your employees and supervisors on those policies.
  • Take employee complaints seriously. Investigate each complaint. Make sure the investigator knows how to investigate a complaint properly. Otherwise, call in a professional (e.g., outside employment-law counsel).
  • Above all, treat your employees with respect. Believe it or not, but employees who feel as if they are being treated fairly are less likely to sue. Go figure.
“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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