Social Responsibility

A New York sexual harassment case bears similarities to the NaviSite case.

The Capece lawsuit -- which seeks to expand corporate civil liability for the behavior of employees -- is apparently not an isolated case. On Jan. 5 the The New York Times reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York held that Delta Air Lines is "potentially liable" under sexual harassment law for "not doing enough to stop what a flight attendant said was rape by another flight attendant," even though the alleged rape took place in a hotel, when the two were not working, and not in a "traditional work site." The appeals court overturned a 2000 dismissal by a lower court, which had ruled that Delta could not be held responsible because the hotel room could not be considered a "work environment."

The female flight attendant charged that in 1998, a fellow attendant had raped her while their flight crew was staying over in Rome after a flight from New York City. Two other flight attendants had made similar allegations to Delta regarding the same man, whose attorney told the Times that his client denies all the charges. The appeals court ruled Dec. 21 that Delta was potentially liable for maintaining a hostile work environment because it had not addressed those previous complaints in any manner.

"The court has extended employer responsibility further than it has ever been extended before," Delta lawyer Gilmore Diekmann Jr. told the Times. "It sets a precedent for any company whose employees are known by the company to go out and socialize on a regular basis." As a result of the ruling, Diekmann said, "companies with traveling sales forces might have to police whether one employee sexually assaulted another while on the road."

The three-judge panel sent the case back to federal district court. Delta's attorneys are asking for a rehearing by the full appeals court.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

NaviSite Inc., sexual harassment, Delta Airlines

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