Employers in Indiana that disregard the criminal conduct of an employee outside of work could end up involved in litigation if one or more co-workers experienced discomfort in the alleged criminal’s presence. A case involving a female employee of another state’s department of corrections has been remanded back to the trial court after an appeals court found validity in her claim of a hostile work environment.

The man accused of raping a co-worker outside of work had existing complaints about his behavior from other female co-workers. Management placed him on paid leave while investigating the rape accusation. One of the female co-workers accusing him obtained a civil protective order to keep him away from her. At this time, management told staff that they eagerly anticipated his return to work. Management also sent an email encouraging co-workers to offer support to the man on leave.

The woman then asked for paid leave under the employer’s policy that allowed for unusual or emergency situations. Management denied her request. She then took unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Management told her co-workers that she was sick, which allegedly made people think that she was faking an illness. Management continued to express concern for the alleged rapist’s rights and a desire to avoid placing stigma on him. The woman eventually quit her job and initiated a lawsuit.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides legal protection for people trapped in a hostile work environment. A person experiencing problems at work like unwanted sexual advances, demotion, or retaliation for complaints could ask an attorney about the possibility of initiating proceedings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.