If employees gossip or spread rumors about a co-worker falsely having sex with a supervisor, does that constitute a hostile work environment? At least one federal appellate court says yes, at least if the employer knew about the rumors, participated in spreading the rumors, and disciplined the worker based on the rumor. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses this workplace issue.
In Parker v. Reema Consulting Services, the plaintiff was initially hired to a low level warehouse position with the company. But, in the course of two years, the plaintiff, a female, was promoted several times, eventually to an assistant manager position. Within weeks of this promotion, male employees began circulating rumors that the plaintiff had a sexual relationship with a high ranking manager, and that she entered into the relationship for the purpose of obtaining the promotions. The rumors started from a male employee who was jealous about the plaintiff’s quick rise to her position.
The plaintiff met with the highest ranking manager at her location to discuss the matter. At the meeting, the manager blamed the plaintiff for “bringing the situation into the workplace,” and warned her that he could not recommend her for any further promotions because of the rumor. He specifically stated she would not progress any higher in the company because of the rumor.