I am not sure if this was a publicity stunt or idle Hollywood gossip. Still, news of Joan Rivers “harassment” of a female employee can provide lessons for an employer.
Apparently, Joan Rivers and someone named Melissa have a reality show called “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best.” While the show was being filmed, Joan was captured trying on jewelry on the young woman. The woman provides the following description of the incident :
“Putting all the jewelry on me and pulling my sweater back and touching my breasts,”
Rivers may think that the young lady’s allegations are ridiculous, but pulling the woman’s blouse open and saying, “Peek-a-boo, look at you today,” then complimenting the woman’s breasts will land most corporations in court. With activity caught on camera, it would be difficult for Rivers to dispute her employee’s claims.
When an employer learns of allegations of harassment, the appropriate thing is to take prompt remedial action to ensure that the harassment does not repeat itself. In this case, the company took the appropriate action by conducting mandatory harassment training for all employees.
Ms. Rivers’ response, however, could land a company in hot water because she made it no secret that she was not happy with having to attend the training. Evidence that a CEO thought harassment training was a waste of time would not be well received by a jury.
Fortunately, for Ms. Rivers and her company, the employee decided not to move forward with the complaint. I certainly hope that Ms. Rivers’ legal team advises her not to fire this employee because then her company would be forced to defend a retaliation suit.
For questions regarding sexual harassment and/or retaliation, do not hesitate to call me, Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.
As a side note, I made note of prompt remedial action above. While this is an important defense in a harassment case, this defense may not be available in a case where a superior harasses a subordinate.