SW Legal studies in Business

Proper Investigation of Sexual Harassment Claim Cannot Produce Emotional Distress Claim
Description Appeals court reversed a jury verdict in favor of an employee who claimed emotional distress from an investigation of various sexual harassment complaints made against him. The employer had a duty under federal law to investigate the complaints and handled the matter properly, so the employee who was terminated, may not prevail.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Emotional Distress; Sexual Harassment; Investigation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts When Malik was hired by Carrier, he was assigned to its executive training program. Malik's performance received mixed evaluations and there were some complaints about his conduct toward female workers. After one woman complained of inappropriate sexual comments made to her by Malik, a human resource manager investigated and discovered other complaints. Malik was "emotionally devastated" when told about the matter. He was told that there would be no discipline, but that a letter of record would be put in his file. After two years in the training program, no division offered to hire Malik, and he was fired. He sued Carrier for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The jury found for Malik. Carrier appealed.
Decision Reversed. Carrier did not negligently inflict emotional distress when it placed a letter concerning sexual harassment in Malik's personnel file. Disagreements about the quality of an employee's performance does not render an employer liable for emotional distress. Furthermore, an employer's failure to investigate a sexual harassment complaint may allow a jury to impose Title VII liability on the employer. The employer has a legal duty to investigate the complaint since they have a duty to prevent a hostile work environment. The fact that the employee who is investigated wants the matter dropped because he denies the charges is not relevant to the duty to investigate the matter and take corrective action.
Citation Malik v. Carrier Corp., 202 F.3d 97 (2nd Cir., 2000)

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