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Alleged sexual harassment leads to wrongful discharge claim

Allegations of sexual harassment are typically based on an employee's claim that he or she was subjected to non-consensual touching in the workplace. A recent case filed in New York illustrates how these matters can relate to wrongful termination.

There, an employee and her boss, who is also the owner of the company, were in Palm Beach on what she expected to be a routine business trip. However, when the two retired for the day, the employee was surprised to find that she did not have a separate room and that her employer expected the two of them to share a room. The woman objected and called the Palm Beach police. When police arrived, they found the woman in the bar of the hotel. She told the officers that her male boss attempted to sexually assault her in the hotel room. Police filed a report that said they found the employer in the room dressed only in a polo shirt. He appeared to be swaying and slurring his speech. The officers said they detected the smell of alcohol on his breath.

When the man and woman returned to New York, she learned that she had been fired because she reported the attempted harassment to the police. She then commenced a lawsuit against the company and her superior alleging that the discharge was retaliation for her complaint to the Palm Beach police. The company and the employee's boss filed a counterclaim, disputing the woman's claims and alleging that her lawsuit had already cost the man more than a million dollars. The company is alleging that the woman was merely a trainee and not a full-fledged employee.

The lawsuit is a long way from resolution. The parties obviously feel deep-seated anger toward each other, and the claims may not be easily settled. Moreover, the lack of witnesses to the alleged harassment will make proving or disproving the parties' claims very difficult. This type of situation isn't unusual, though, which is why those embroiled in a case involving sexual harassment or wrongful termination should consider seeking out the assistance of an aggressive legal ally.

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