Evaluating sexual harassment claims almost always requires weighing conflicting evidence and making credibility determinations. In such situations, whoever is evaluating the claim—whether a court or an HR manager—must thoroughly examine all relevant evidence to determine whether the allegedly harassing conduct occurred and whether the conduct constitutes actual harassment because of sex or something else. Those determinations are a lot easier when, as in this case, video footage of the alleged conduct is available.
Employees Allege Harassment During Security Screenings
Tamika Schmidt, a judicial secretary, and Danielle Penny, a court program supervisor, worked in the Hall of Justice for Ventura Superior Court, in Ventura, California. Ventura County retained a private company for security at the hall. All court employees had to pass through a security screening when they entered the building. Employees went through the same screening as the public, but in a different line. All security screenings were in public and on video.
During screenings, people put belongings on a conveyor belt feeding into an X-ray machine. Guards looked for prohibited items like guns, knives, scissors, and brass knuckles. After putting items on the belt, entrants walked through a metal detector archway that beeped when it detected metal. Different levels of lights on the edge of the archway would light up to show where metal might be. For example, a shoe-level light showed if there was metal at the shoe level, and so forth.
If the archway beeped, a guard tried to determine the reason, often with a handheld wand that beeped near metal. Depending on the light signal on the archway, guards customarily waved the wand outside of people’s legs, across their waistbands and a foot or two below that, and over the area of back pockets. Guards were trained not to put the wand too close to people, but to work properly, it had to be no more than a foot away.
Schmidt and Penny filed a lawsuit alleging a security guard, David Jacques, sexually harassed them during the security check process. Penny alleged Jacques inappropriately scanned her many times by holding the wand over her breasts, pelvis, and buttocks for at least 3 seconds at a time when the archway didn’t beep. She also testified she often saw Jacques do that to other women. She reported to the Ventura Superior Court that for 3 days in a row in March 2014, Jacques blocked her path when the archway didn’t beep, scanned her buttocks, and once scanned her breasts and pelvis.
Schmidt alleged Jacques held the wand stationary for several seconds over her breasts and buttocks about 100 times between 2011 and 2014. She also alleged that on March 28, 2014, Jacques dumped and searched her bag, took out her sewing kit, and refused to let her enter the building with sewing scissors. Schmidt further alleged that on August 14, 2014, Jacques leaned over the X-ray machine, got close to her face, and yelled, “Hi, Tamika. Good morning, Tamika. Have an awesome day.” She claimed he was taunting her.
All parties agreed to a trial before a superior court judge without a jury. The trial lasted 19 days and involved testimony from 32 witnesses, including Schmidt, Penny, Jacques, multiple security personnel, and employees from the Ventura County Superior Court. While there was much conflicting evidence, the trial court ultimately ruled not only that Schmidt and Penny didn’t prove sexual harassment but that the evidence instead clearly showed no harassment occurred. The trial court issued its ruling in an 82-page decision that discussed all the evidence, including the testimony from each of the 32 witnesses. Schmidt and Penny appealed. Continue reading here…
Source: HR Daily Advisor