Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Friday, April 02, 2004

Public Policy Might Support Firing Alleged Harasser, But Won't Top Explicit Contract

At least according to the Third Circuit. An executive accused of sexual harassment had a contract which provided that certain benefits continued if he were terminated by the company. When he was terminated following allegations of sexual harassment (while on vacation with his family), he sued when the company failed to honor its contract. Against the argument that requiring it to pay him violated the public policy which opposes sexual harassment in the workplace, the court found otherwise. Noting that it did not keep the employer from effectively removing a sexual harasser from the workplace and thus protecting public policy, the Court held that in the future if they wanted protection against an employee's misconduct, such penalties should be negotiated as part of the contract. Fields v. Thompson Printing Co., Inc. (3rd Cir. 3/31/04) [pdf].

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