Some companies in California might struggle to prove that they are in the right when terminating an employee for harassment. Universal Music Publishing Group fired a division head after a report that the head had hit a female employee in the face with rolled-up paper. Even though there was a witness to the incident, the fired employee sued and won. The success of his case primarily hinged on the fact that the company did not mention its workplace violence policy in his contract.
The man had been sent to a harassment training course in 2004 after another employee alleged that he had sexually harassed her. He was required to pay her claims from his bonus. In 2013, the employee he later hit in the face alleged that he harassed her based on her pregnancy.
It is not clear how much contact occurred in the incident involving the paper that led to his termination. The arbitrator said he should have exercised more caution and not touched the other employee at all. However, the panel found that since the incident was cited as the only one that led to the man’s termination and the company’s harassment policies were not specifically part of his contract, it was a case of wrongful termination. The decision did acknowledge that the man created an unpleasant working atmosphere.
People who feel that they have been wrongfully terminated from a job might want to talk to an attorney. While there are federal laws protecting against certain types of termination, such as a firing on the basis of religion or race, the state of California offers additional protections to some classes of employees.