This week we wrote about a case just filed by a female prison guard in Iowa against prison officials claiming that sexually explicit and violent movies which inmates were allowed to see caused them to sexually harass her. She sued for what is known as “third-party harassment,” where an employer may be liable for the harassment of its employees by non-employees if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take appropriate corrective action to stop it.
After discussing the developing law in this little known area, we concluded that the case will likely turn on the ultimate findings of fact, and the reasonableness of the prison officials permitting the inmates to watch the offending videos. We also noted the likelihood of “expert witness testimony on the effect of such videos, which may end up in the thicket of the current (and endless) debate on whether there is a cause and effect between video watching and violent behavior.”
A reader just gave us his opinion of the case and raised questions which we think are worth sharing:
“Interesting facts but I suspect a difficult case for the Plaintiff. Putting aside the fact that the science on cause and effect of watching violent or sexually explicit movies is not very strong, what is it that the employer did that violated any law? If letting the inmates watch the movies is the issue, then it acted promptly upon notice by stopping the movies. If it is the conduct that followed withdrawal of the movies, if the employer imposed reasonable discipline on the offending inmates I suspect there will be a finding of no liability.”
Any other comments?