Sheriff’s Documentation Overcomes ‘He Said, She Said’ Claims in Discrimination, Harassment Lawsuit
In workplace discrimination lawsuits built on “he said, she said” accusations, male defendants often find it difficult to prevail. The keys for a favorable outcome are demonstrating credibility for the defendant’s side of the story and providing careful documentation of all aspects surrounding a harassment claim.
Isaac Wiles partner Maribeth Meluch and associate David Moser demonstrated the importance of these approaches as they successfully defended a county sheriff’s office from a discrimination lawsuit by one of its employees. A female deputy claimed she was sexually harassed by a fellow deputy and then unjustly fired from her job. The acting sheriff said in her termination letter that she failed to satisfactorily complete her probationary period. The firing was the female deputy’s third law-enforcement job lost in five years and coincided with a pattern of workplace harassment claims she had made against her employers. The defense provided a long line of supportive witnesses and documentation that undermined the plaintiff’s stories. The Isaac Wiles team helped to get the wrongful termination claim, based on sex discrimination, dismissed on summary judgment.
After a three-day jury trial in federal court on hostile work environment and retaliation claims, the jury unanimously sided on behalf of the sheriff’s office. The case provides an important reminder for employers: Claims of hostile work environments and sexual harassment should be taken seriously, and employers should document conversations with employees and steps taken to address accusations. Failing to address employee complaints when they happen can have severe consequences if a case goes to court.