COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—When it comes to sexual harassment allegations, no employer wants to find itself in the position an Indiana university was in during the 1990s, when a woman complained to a senior administrator that the school’s chancellor had groped her.
“Oh, no, not again,” said the administrator at Indiana University’s South Bend campus.
A jury awarded the woman $800,000.
Although a judge later slashed that to $50,000, the message was clear: Failing to address allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace can have expensive legal consequences for employers.
“You don’t have to fire people necessarily, but doing nothing is usually not helpful,” said Camille Hebert, an employment discrimination professor at the Ohio State law school.
Earlier this year, a former University of California, Santa Cruz student who alleges she was raped by a professor settled her claim against the university system for $1.15 million over what she says was its failure to address previous allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence by the faculty member.
It is with that reality in mind that companies are swiftly firing powerful men accused of misbehavior and taking a zero-tolerance attitude toward such wrongdoing. But whether a no-mercy approach is a good idea is a matter of debate.