A restaurant employee, who claimed she was groped and fondled by a fellow employee, posted her complaints about the poor working conditions at the restaurant on Facebook. The Facebook page was one that had been set up by employees of the restaurant to communicate about scheduling issues, but it also contained posts on problems in the workplace. The employee conceded that she did not directly inform management at the restaurant about the sexual harassment prior to her termination, but she said that posting her complaints on the employee Facebook page was enough to put the restaurant on notice of what was going on. She sued the restaurant for sexual harassment.A federal judge in Indiana ruled that simply posting the complaints on a Facebook page set up by restaurant employees was not enough to show that the restaurant had notice of the conduct in order to find it liable, and dismissed the claim. The judge noted that the restaurant employees made a concerted effort to keep restaurant management off of the Facebook page. The judge also pointed to the fact that the restaurant had a specific handbook provision directing employees to report all incidents of harassment to management, and even had a hotline that employees could use for anonymous reporting. Because the employee did not follow these established procedures for reporting the harassment, the judge refused to hold the restaurant liable.
This case underscores just how important it is for employers to have an established written policy for employees to use to report complaints, and to make sure that the policy is followed.