Resigning Due to Harassment - Unemployment Appeals 4/7/2016

The Tenth District holds that a police officer who filed sexual harassment complaints lacks just cause to resign due to a purported failure to give the employer an adequate opportunity to resolve her complaints.

Loughman v. Ohio Dep. of Public Safety, 2016 Ohio 1086 (10th Dist.)

March 17, 2016

Soon after Loughman started as a police officer with the Ohio Highway Patrol in August 2013, she was subjected to sexual harassment.  As a result, she filed a complaint in November 2013 and another officer was disciplined.  She continued to work under this same officer and complained again in May 2014 that the harassment was continuing.  She was transferred to another department pending the investigation and was then offered four other positions.  Five days later she resigned due to a medical condition.  Her application for unemployment was compensation was denied due to a finding that she quit without just cause.

The Tenth District first reviewed that, typically when an employee resigns they must first notify the employer of the problems and given the employer an opportunity to resolve the issues.  However, when initial complaints do not resolve the problems the employee may not be required to provide new notice of the same complaints.

The Tenth District rejected Loughman's argument that the Employer did not adequately address her second harassment complaint, noting that it had disciplined the other officer after the first complaint, transferred her after the second complaint, offered her other positions, and was still investigating the complaints.

The Tenth District also rejected her argument to justify her why she did not provide notice of the medical condition before resigning.  It observed that, when addressing this issue, the Board, "needs to consider the nature of the problem, the person to whom [the employee] would need to address her concerns, and whether notice to that person would have been a futile act."  It observed that Loughman was not required to report the issue to the harassing employee but rather to the human resources department and there was no evidence that the department would not have taking action in response to her complaints.  The Tenth District, therefore, denied Loughman's appeal.

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