A worker who claims she was retaliated against after participating in an internal sex harassment inquiry about a co-worker can sue her employer for sex harassment, the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided. The employee was interviewed as part of the company’s investigation of allegations that a company director had committed sexual harassment. During the interview, the employee described incidents of egregious harassment against her and other employees. The director was verbally reprimanded but not terminated.
The employee was later placed on administrative leave and ultimately fired. The company claimed it was for irregularities in the payroll office which she oversaw. But she sued for sex harassment, claiming she was fired in retaliation for participating in the harassment inquiry.
The Supreme Court said that even though she didn’t instigate the initial action or file an official complaint, the fact that she answered the employer’s questions about harassment was enough to bring the case under the federal sex harassment law. The Court said that if workers could legally be penalized for reporting discrimination when answering an employer’s questions, workers would have no good reason to speak up about discrimination against themselves or others.