Page 23 - BusinessWest May 2, 2022
P. 23

                                 Case in Point
Suits Shows Need for Investigation of Sexual Harassment Claims
ByTrevor R. Brice
All discrimination lawsuits strike fear into the hearts of employers, but per- haps none more so than complaints alleging sexual harassment.
In addition to damaging company image, these lawsuits also involve investigations into uncomfortable and hidden aspects of employ- ees’ lives. These lawsuits can also lead to big damages. It is not uncommon for juries to award harassment victims with six or even seven figures in damages.
Businesses often ask: ‘How can we guard against this risk?’ First and foremost, it involves creating an inclusive workplace culture that stresses respect and dignity, for which effective training and appropriate employee discipline are the keys. However, when things go wrong, prompt and thorough investigations can put an employer back on track. They can also save a business from liability if the investigation is conducted in an adequate manner.
In a recent ruling that highlights the impor- tance of workplace investigations, the United States District Court for the District of Mas- sachusetts considered the case of Sara Caruso
v. Delta Airlines Inc. The Plaintiff Sara Caruso (“Caruso”) was a flight attendant for Delta based out of Boston. In August 2018, Caruso served as
a flight attendant on a flight from Boston to Dal- las on which James Lucas (“Lucas”) was working as first officer. The flight crew, including Caruso and Lucas, stayed overnight at a hotel in Dallas after going out for dinner and drinks. At some
her suspension, Caruso notified her supervisor about what happened with Lucas. When Caruso reported this, Delta’s Human Resources depart- ment immediately started an investigation, which included obtaining statements from all of
 “Sexual harassment and assault claims in
Massachusetts are particularly thorny for employers,
as Massachusetts courts have shown a tendency to
allow a lowered standard for Plaintiffs to win on
Caruso’s colleagues, including Lucas, that had socialized with her on the night in question.
Delta also attempted to obtain the key card swipe record and video footage from that night, which the hotel would not release. Delta also interviewed Lucas twice. Lucas stated he and
Continued on page 24
    sexual harassment or sexual assault complaints.
 point after dinner, Caruso became intoxicated, and subsequently she and Lucas engaged in various sexual acts. Caruso had no recollection of the incident.
The next morning, when Caruso arrived for work late, she apparently was suspected of still being drunk. She was given a breathalyzer test at the airport, which she failed, and was subsequently suspended. The next day, during
The company that’s been delivering great dental plans for the last twenty years now offers total vision coverage. In partnership with VSP®, a leader in vision care, Altus Vision offers you:
Robust plans | Big savings | Easy access
Request a quote and get a
free pair of blue light glasses
 Altus VisionTM is underwritten by Altus Dental Insurance Company. Claims processing, claims service, and provider network administration for Altus VisionTM are provided under contract by Vision Service Plan Insurance Company (“VSP”).
MAY 2, 2022 23

   21   22   23   24   25