HR case: The older man and the younger woman

HR case: The older man and the younger woman

We read about this case online and since it is going to trial, we thought it might be of interest to our HR readers.

A certain account manager, we’ll call him Mr. Schrute, was not the ideal employee. Soon after his employment began, he reportedly “spoke incoherently” at a client lunch and later had to apologize. Mr. Schrute attributed the episode to medications.

Mr. Schrute also emailed confidential pricing information to a client – by accident, of course. According to his supervisor, it was just one of many blunders.

Schrute also inaccurately forecast his business expectations during a presentation, leading to written apology No. 3. Obviously, Schrute was not off to the best of starts.

We have not yet discussed “the older man and the younger woman” part. The young woman, we’ll call her Ms. Kapoor, worked in the office next door to Schrute. He visited the office quite often because a potential client worked there. Apparently, there was more than one reason for Schrute’s visits.

One day, Schrute sent Ms. Kapoor a message on LinkedIn:

“I love chatting with you and I like you. Maybe we could grab dinner sometime or do you think I might be too young for you? :)”

Ms. Kapoor immediately replied “No,” and registered a complaint to her HR manager that he was making her “very uncomfortable.” The complaint was soon communicated to Schrute’s supervisor.

Is this sexual harassment? Usually, one request for a date would not be enough for a sexual harassment claim. We’re assuming Mr. Schrute did not bother Ms. Kapoor again. Repeated requests most certainly would be considered harassment.

Schrute’s boss was furious with this latest snafu and reportedly screamed at him over the phone. According to Schrute, much of his boss’s anger was due to the age difference between himself, in his 50s, and Kapoor, who had just turned 21. His supervisor reported the incident by email to HR, including the age of the woman.

Apparently, this was the last straw as the company allowed Schrute to resign. He was soon replaced by a 30-year-old employee, who took over Schrute’s accounts.

Yes, you are correct. Schrute soon sued for age discrimination — even though he had numerous problems on the job over the course of several months.

Knowing Schrute’s dubious history, the company moved for summary judgment. The judge disagreed, deciding to allow the case to go to trial because of email references to the age difference between Schrute and Kapoor.

According to the court, it appeared the 30-plus years age difference between the older man and the younger woman was what angered his supervisor. Please note HR employees, the boss’s reference to the age difference in the email is one reason why Schrute will have his day in court.

Age gaps between adults should not be taken into consideration when determining sexual harassment claims or violations of company policies. As the world turns!

The information and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only and are based on current practice, industry related knowledge and business expertise. The information provided shall not be construed as legal advice, express or implied.

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