The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is tasked with holding employers in Indiana and around the country responsible when they fail to take action to address workplace civil rights issues like sexual harassment or discrimination. The agency announced on Dec. 19 that United Airlines has agreed to pay one of its female flight attendants $321,000 plus legal fees to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The Chicago-based carrier has also agreed to amend its sexual harassment policy and provide its workers with information about the workplace rights provided by the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The EEOC claimed in its lawsuit that a United Airlines pilot posted explicit photographs of the flight attendant online. The images, which the EEOC says were seen by passengers as well as coworkers, were allegedly tagged with the airline’s slogan and the flight attendant’s name and home airport. The flight attendant says that she turned to the EEOC after her attempts to have the photographs taken down through corporate channels were ignored. United Airlines did not immediately respond to news of the settlement.
The case shows that employers can face severe legal sanctions for failing to adequately deal with behavior that creates a hostile work environment even if the harassment takes place online. An EEOC representative pointed out that workplaces are no longer limited to the physical realm, and one of the agency’s attorneys said that he hoped the settlement would encourage employers to take complaints more seriously and put robust anti-harassment policies into place.
Employers may choose to settle sexual harassment lawsuits when workers have evidence showing that complaints made to supervisors or human resources departments were ignored. This is why attorneys with experience in this area may advise workers to keep detailed records of unacceptable behavior and the steps they took to address it.