The Yahoo Effect: How Sexual Harassment Cases May Unfold Moving Forward
We read with great interest on the blog Corporate Council, about an incident last April in which a Yahoo, Inc. software engineer came forward to human resources and claimed that her boss had harassed her by pressuring her to have sex. The allegations went on to say that after a relationship occurred and was broken off, her boss retaliated in the form of poor performance reviews that eventually led to her getting fired.
This sexual harassment claim in and of itself doesn’t sound like anything new, especially in the world of corporate HR. But a new twist came in July, when the accused executive filed a countersuit. The executive declared that the harassment claims were “outrageously false.” The cross-complaint said that the two women never had sex, and that the person making the allegations was a poor employee attempting to extort money from the company and/or keep her job.
Good times for the HR department and Yahoo, no?
“What the boss has working in her favor is that the records show the employee did not claim at any time during her original meeting with Yahoo’s human resources department that she had ever been sexually harassed,” says myHR Partner’s president, Tina Hamilton, PHR. “The company had that on record, thanks to good documentation, and Yahoo found no evidence of wrongdoing and closed the case. When the employee subsequently came back and complained to HR that her boss sexually harassed her, but had no proof of it, the harassment complaint really seemed to have no teeth.” Accusers often have a hard time proving such allegations, and the documentation surrounding this incident does not appear to support such a claim.
What does make this case unusual is the counter-complaint of defamation by the executive. It alleges that the employee making the false accusations of sexual harassment profited with of hundreds of thousands of dollars that, had she been fired for the poor performance back when the review was filed, she would not have gotten. By having the company hold off in order to investigate her allegations, the employee was able to reap financial gains in the form of stock and salary that she otherwise would not have taken home, according to a CNN Money news article. The executive, on the other hand, has suffered “severe hardship” from the terrible claims against her.
Yahoo’s Teachable Moment for Us All
“Documentation is imperative when dealing with performance reviews and any type of harassment claims,” says Hamilton. “For companies that are not currently making HR documentation a priority, let’s hope this opens their eyes to what needs to happen when complaints and performance reviews come in, and let’s call this the “Yahoo Effect.”
Beyond record keeping, companies can benefit immensely from quality training for its managers on such topics as harassment, performance reviews, conflict resolution and employee communications. Giving managers the tools with which to handle disgruntled employees only makes sense for the entire company.
Make Sure Your Managers Are Well Trained!
myHR Partner has a wide range of training offerings that will help you educate your managers so that they can play a pivotal role in protecting your organization’s brand. Beyond good for business, some states, like California, require annual or periodic harassment training as well.
Whether you are looking for workshops on harassment and documentation, or some other employer need, our team of trainers is ready to assist you. Click here for more on our dynamic and customizable training programs.