Discrimination or Harassment Plaintiff: Play the hand you're dealt

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Sexual harassment claims often come from things you can't fully control. A rouge supervisor. An on-the-side workplace romance that goes bad. On top of that, you can't pick the employee who gets harassed and turns plaintiff.

The plaintiff's background, I think, can make or break a case—just look at O'Dell v. Wright. The plaintiff testified that she had been abducted and sexually assaulted when she was 5 years old. She also said that her supervisor had barraged her with lewd comments and touched her twice. A Fort Worth jury awarded $425,000 for the plaintiff's mental anguish alone. And the appellate court let the jury verdict stand.

Let's talk about what you can control. A few simple steps will help keep you away from angry juries and preserve your defenses against higher damage awards. You can:

Avoid a runaway jury by implementing an arbitration policy or jury waiver agreement for your employees;

Have a solid discrimination and harassment policy;

Train your employees on your policies; and

Investigate any reports of harassment and respond appropriately.

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