“Think before you speak.” That’s a lesson we all learn at some point between childhood and early adolescence, right? Often, it’s a lesson instilled in us by our parents, and at times, we learn the lesson only after an embarrassing “foot in mouth” experience.
Apparently, there is at least one full-grown adult out there who recently learned this lesson the hard way – through an adverse jury verdict in a sexual harassment case.
Here’s what happened – Melissa Noyes, while serving a 6-month jail sentence for burglary, was admitted to a “women in transition” program in a minimum security, pre-release correctional facility in Massachusetts. Inmates in the program were permitted to work during the day. Noyes worked at a local Honey Dew Donut shop owned by Sameer Hussin.
Keep reading. This is not your normal cop and donut shop story.
According to inmate Noyes, Hussin began to make sexual advances toward her (and possibly others). Noyes complained to a jail staffer about the harassment. The response from the jail staffer? “Tough it out” or face being sent to a higher security correctional facility.
Noyes’ sexual harassment claim made it to trial. A Massachusetts jury found that Hussin sexually harassed Noyes, and that the Sheriff’s Department “aided and abetted” the harassment by ignoring Noyes’ complaints. The jury awarded Noyes $35,000 ($10,000 to be paid by the Sheriff’s Department and the remainder by Hussin).
Undoubtedly, the jail staffer who uttered the words “tough it out” has now learned the lesson “think before you speak.” I know my HR friends who are reading this blog learned that lesson long ago and would never utter those words in response to a sexual harassment complaint, even in response to unsubstantiated or demonstrably false allegations. With the risk of civil liability, some things are just better left unsaid.