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Exhaustion of remedies and sexual harassment suits

It is unfortunate that some people still face sexual harassment at their places of employment, but it does occur. When employees are sexually harassed, it is important for them to seek out all of the remedies available to them through their workplace before filing a sexual harassment lawsuit, as a recent case demonstrates.

In the case, a female worker for Nissan sued the company for sexual harassment after a co-worker exposed himself to her and showed her explicit photographs of himself. The woman worked as a production associate while the co-worker was a line leader on the assembly line. The co-worker and the woman both had the same supervisor. After the man exposed himself, the woman told another co-worker but did not complain to the supervisor. A different co-worker reported it to human resources, resulting in the company moving her to a different work station away from the man. The woman then quit and sued, but the company was able to obtain a summary judgment for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the court found that she had not pursued all of her available remedies.

The case illustrates the importance of following a company's written procedures regarding sexual harassment complaints. People should report sexual harassment as soon as it occurs to their supervisor. If the supervisor is the harasser, then they need to complain to human resources or another designated person. If they wait to complain or don't exhaust the remedies that are available to them, they may lose their ability to sue later if they need to do so. If they do complain and the company does nothing to fix the situation or retaliates against them, they may be able to sue.

The court said that because the woman didn't exhaust her available remedies, she couldn't establish a prima facie case. The court also pointed out that Nissan moved the woman to a different work area away from the man, which demonstrated that the company tried to fix the problem in a reasonable manner.

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