The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that an African American Pizza Hut employee in Texas could not recover even though he was subjected to egregious racial and sexual harassment from his store manager because Pizza Hut proved that it took reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior and that the employee had failed to take advantage of the preventative and corrective opportunities. Blanton v. Newton Assoc. Inc., 2015 BL 33945 (5th Cir. 2015).
In the Pizza Hut case, the employee was subjected to inappropriate racial and sexual remarks by his store manager. Pizza Hut maintained a policy prohibiting discrimination/harassment and provided a reasonable avenue for employee complaints. The employee complained to low level supervisors with no authority over the store manager. Once he complained to a manager with authority over the store manager pursuant to the policy, Pizza Hut completed an investigation and fired the store manager within four (4) days.
This decision reminds employers of the importance of:
- Maintaining an updated policy prohibiting all forms of discrimination and harassment and providing an effective procedure for processing employee complaints of discrimination and harassment;
- Conducting periodic training on the discrimination/harassment policy for managers, supervisors and employees;
- Promptly and thoroughly investigating all complaints under the policy; and
- Taking appropriate remedial action when an investigation determines that discrimination/harassment has taken place.