McNamee Hosea News & Press


Yahoo Makes Risky Move in Response to Harassment Lawsuit

When a company is the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit, its reputation may be on the line. Determining the best course of action in terms of responding to the lawsuit can be critical, especially for large corporations that are already in the public eye.

This was the challenge that Yahoo faced when a senior director of engineering at the Internet corporation was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit. She was accused of getting into an employee's bed, making sexual advances and then threatening the employee's job if her advances were rebuffed. In response to the lawsuit, Yahoo made a surprising and aggressive move.

Not only is the company defending the senior director, they are putting considerable resources behind efforts to support her in a defamation lawsuit filed against the accuser.
The tactic used by Yahoo is fairly controversial and quite risky, as companies generally want to stay away from launching a public attack on people who are alleged victims of harassment. In this case, however, Yahoo may be doing this because they are very confident that the accusations are false and they want to send a strong message that similar claims, which they believe are baseless, will not be tolerated.

Whether this decision will prove to be successful remains to be seen and we will certainly be interested to see how it all plays out. In the meantime, this should remind readers that there are multiple ways to defend against claims of harassment. In some situations, it may be best to minimize public exposure and settle the situation quickly and quietly. In other cases, a vigorous defense may be more appropriate. 

Businesses can see a lot of backlash if they choose the wrong route or fail to address claims of sexual harassment appropriately. This is why it can be so important to consult an attorney and work to develop a defense that protects the interests and reputation of a company that has been targeted in a lawsuit.

Source: The Recorder, "Yahoo Fights Fire With Fire in Sexual Harassment Case," Marisa Kendall