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Are Allegations Of Harassment Enough To Protect Against Retaliation? You Make The Call

Mark Steines, former host of "Home and Family" on the Hallmark Channel claims he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for supporting two women who made claims of sexual harassment against Woody Fraser, the executive producer of the show.

Steines alleges Fraser "harassed and abused staffers on the show, and displayed misogynistic behavior." He also claims Fraser made "lewd comments in his earpiece while he was interviewing attractive guests." Employees reported sexual harassment to Steines, who told management, but nothing was done in response. Steines also witnessed Fraser forcibly hug and massage female employees.

Steines alleged the employer was angered when he agreed to be a potential witness for the women. First, the employer cut his salary by 25 percent, and, a few months later, fired him with three months remaining on his contract. Gene Maddaus "Hallmark Channel Host Says He Was Fired For Backing Harassment Claims" variety.com (Sep. 20, 2018).

So, the question for our readers is: are allegations about harassment enough to protect against retaliation?

Please let us know what you think in the comment section or take the poll. Here are some opinions of some of the McCalmon editorial staff:

Jack McCalmon, Esq. 

In every situation, it is important to discover the facts. For example, "Employees reported the harassment to Steines…" Who were the employees who reported the sexual harassment? What did they say to Steines?

Did their employee handbook require them to report to human resources, or to other management, or to an outside entity? If so, what were the reasons they reported, instead, to Steines? Did Steines then report the harassment to management?

What do others who work with the accused say about his interactions with women on the set?

What reasons did the employer have for terminating Steines? Are they documented?

Finally, what is the accused's response to the allegations? Can the accused's version be substantiated with documents or witnesses? Who is believable? Who has a motive to lie?

These, and other questions, are the obvious ones that need to be answered.

If Steines' allegations are proven true or if he made a good faith mistake and the reason for this termination was that he reported harassment, then he will likely be protected from the employer's retaliation.

If his allegations were knowingly or recklessly false or made for the sole reason to retaliate against his employer for his termination, then he will likely not be protected from the employer's retaliation. 

Leslie Zieren, Esq.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits retaliating against employees for: being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit; for
communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment; for answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment; and for intervening to protect others. As long as an employee acts on a reasonable belief that conduct in the workplace may violate EEO laws, even if the complaint eventually is unable to be proven, that employee is protected for participating in a complaint process.

You can provide a comment on what you would do or answer our poll. Please note any comments provided may be shared with others.  

Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey:

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