Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission --
Summary of Wisconsin Court Decision relating to Unemployment Insurance
Subject: Jerome A. Beatty (Hrg. No. 96400410WB) v. LIRC and A Titan Wheel Company, Case
97-CV-135 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Washington Co., March 23, 1998)
Digest Codes: MC 668
The employe worked for about seven years as a laborer for the employer, a manufacturer. The employer had an established, written policy forbidding sexual harassment. In December 1995, three female co-workers complained together that the employe had been making them very uncomfortable with sexually-suggestive behavior. This included inappropriate comments concerning their body parts, and other suggestive comments. There was also inappropriate touching of two of the women. The employer suspended the employe upon receiving these complaints, and after an investigation discharged him.
The appeal tribunal found no misconduct under the rationale that the employe had acted the same way over a period of years, but had never been informed by the co-workers or the employer that his actions were unwelcome. The commission reversed and found that a warning was not necessary because the evidence led to the inference that the employe intentionally violated the employer's rule against sexual harassment. The employe appealed and argued that his statements and actions were merely inappropriate or misguided, and that he had no reason to know that they were unwelcome, because nothing had been said to him about the problem prior to his suspension.
Held: The finding of misconduct is affirmed. The co-workers' failure to complain to the employe does not credibly refute the commission's inference that the employe knew his statements and actions were unwelcome. Requiring an employe to personally confront her harasser invites a repetition of the unwelcome behavior, and given the totality of circumstances in this case, the employer was not obligated to warn the employe prior to suspension and discharge. The great weight standard was accorded to the commission's decision.
Appealed to Court of Appeals; Affirmed (unpublished opinion) June 16, 1999.[Court of Appeals Decision Summary]
Please note that this is a summary prepared by staff of the commission, not a verbatim reproduction of the court decision.
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