PetSmart Not Liable in Same-Sex Harassment Case, Court Holds

If you want an example of the right way to handle a sexual harassment complaint, then take a look at this week’s decision by a federal district court in Kentucky exonerating PetSmart.

The court held that the pet food and supplies chain responded appropriately to a complaint by a dog trainer that a male co-worker had harassed him.  Granting summary judgment to the company, the court said it took reasonable steps to prevent harassment and promptly investigated the alleged victim’s complaint.

The judge found that the company had in place a strict anti-harassment policy that provided employees with “multiple, alternative avenues” to complain about purported harassment, including an anonymous toll-free hotline.

When the alleged victim finally used the hotline to report the purported offensive conduct, company officials conducted an immediate investigation and fired the alleged harasser three weeks later, the court said.

These actions were enough to negate liability under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in this case of alleged co-worker harassment, the court concluded. And they would have negated liability even if the harasser was the alleged victim’s supervisor, the court said.

The case is Harris v. PetSmart Inc., E.D. Ky., No. 11-00094, 10/23/12.

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