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Testifying about sexual harassment should not lead to termination

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has recently heard a case concerning a woman allegedly terminated from her place of employment because she testified concerning sexual harassment occurring at her workplace. It was found that the employee alleged sufficient facts to support her claims of retaliation for the lawsuit to go forward. Such a finding could affect the way that claims of sexual harassment will be handled in Indiana and other states as well.

The employee worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety, and it was during the course of this employment that her direct supervisor allegedly performed lewd acts in front of her. The employee had then testified at a criminal trial concerning those actions and it was because of such testimony that she allegedly lost her job. Her supervisor also attempted to assert governmental immunity that would shield him from liability.

The trial court had ruled that terminating an employee under such circumstances could be deemed inappropriate, and that the issue of governmental immunity could not be raised when the conduct the supervisor engaged in clearly violated established law that every reasonable official would have understood. The appellate court upheld the trial court ruling.

This case demonstrates the benefits of litigation when it comes to employment related disputes. Attorneys experienced in the area of workplace discrimination are familiar with what conduct should and should not be tolerated at the workplace and can often force businesses to make changes that will prevent sexual harassment from taking place.

Though wrongful termination and sexual harassment claims will likely always be with us, at least some employees are fighting back to hold perpetrators of such conduct accountable. Employees should not be punished for reporting conduct that is clearly criminal.

Source: United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, "Jo Anna Miles v. Lamar Beckworth," Dec. 28, 2011

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