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Sexual harassment and professional networking

LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional networking platform -- not a social or dating platform.

It would probably be wise for company managers and executives to remember that before they start trying to make dating overtures to other professionals they find attractive. Otherwise, they might end up involving their entire company in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

A lawsuit filed out of California seeks to hold a large banking firm responsible for the sexual innuendo and outright lewd messages sent by the managing director of one of its subsidiary firms to a young woman he apparently had a less-than-professional interest in knowing.

While the two originally connected via a business deal, the managing director approached the young woman about a possible job opportunity on the social media sight. When she indicated some interest, his messages quickly turned personal. He capped them off with a quick shot of his genitalia just to be clear about the message he was sending, apparently.

The young woman, who may be striking a blow for a lot of other women who have complained about less-than-professional behavior on the platform, is now suing for sexual harassment and negligent supervision.

The negligent supervision part of the case is what could ultimately hold the banking company responsible for its employee's conduct online. Generally speaking, at least when dealing in the brick-and-mortar world, employers are responsible for the actions of their employees -- including acts like sexual harassment -- especially if they fail to make certain that there are safeguards (like supervision) in place to prevent that sort of thing from happening.

Since the managing director had approached her initially about business and had done business with her before, he clearly used the account for business purposes in his position at the company. His mistake was letting those business aspirations turn sexual -- and that could cost significant damages if the court agrees.

For more advice on sexual harassment claims, speak to an attorney today.

Source: Bloomberg, "It’s Probably Not OK to Send Naked Pictures on LinkedIn," Polly Mosendz and Rebecca Greenfield, June 14, 2017

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