Your Email History May Hurt Your Sexual Harassment Case
In a recent case, Seybert v. International Group Inc, email was used by the defense to show that the plaintiff in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit would not have been as offended by the conduct of the defendant as she claims. The jury said, plaintiff Susan Seybert was not sexually harassed by her supervisor, Brett Marchand, and there was no retaliation aginst Seybert once she complained to management.
What happend in this case is the defense utilized emails of a sexual nature that Seybert sent to other individuals which showed things of a sexual nature did not offend her. According to the lawsuit, the emails used sexual words, metaphors, puns and other innuendo to amuse, entertain and convey various humorous messages. In lawsuits involving sexual harassment a plaintiff must satisfy both an objective and a subjective test when alleging a hostile work environment. It is very important to utilize your company email for business only and to be aware that the company can get into your computer and retreive even deleted emails.
At trial the defense used a e-mail which showed a photo of a naked man in a Santa hat, lying on his belly, with a caption that told the recipient to turn him over to get at the "present."
In Illinois the same standards would apply to a sexual harassment case and it is very important to watch what you put into an email. Even innocent jokes can be utilized by the company and their attorneys against you if you come forward with a sexual harassment complaint. My office handles many cases in Chicago which involve text messages and emails, both of which can help and hurt your case depending on what they say.