Pullen v. Caddo Parish School Board (5th Circuit July 2016) illustrates that having a strong anti-harassment policy only protects an employer from liability if employees receive adequate education and training on the policy.
Kandice Pullen worked in Caddo’s central office. She claims that she was repeatedly sexual harassed by her supervisor. She lodged a complaint with the EEOC and then filed a Title VII lawsuit. The trial court granted summary judgment for Caddo on the basis that Caddo had an anti-harassment policy which Kandice unreasonably failed to take advantage of to stop the harassment by her supervisor.
The Fifth Circuit reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and allowed Kandice to pursue her lawsuit. The Court found that genuine issues of fact existed as to whether Caddo adequately trained its employees on the existence of the anti-harassment policy and how to report sexual harassment. Here are some of the issues the Court noted as relevant in determining if Caddo adequately educated and trained its employees:
- Was the policy provided to employees or simply posted on bulletin boards?
- Did Caddo adequately train employees on how to report sexual harassment?
- Was the alleged harasser aware of the policy?
- Was Kandice, who was a temporary employee, aware of the policy and did she know how to report sexual harassment by her supervisor?
The lesson of this decision is that an employer needs to be prepared to show not only a strong anti-harassment policy, but also that it exercises reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any sexually harassing behavior.