Company Settles Kentucky Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

June 5, 2012

Known as the sponsor of the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Alltech is an international company based in Nicholasville, Kentucky that produces animal feed, a beef product, coffee and alcoholic beverages. According to a lawsuit against the company that recently settled, it also allegedly produces a hostile work environment for female employees.

A woman who worked for Alltech for about four years filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company in May 2011. She had allegedly been harassed by her boss for the duration of her employment. The harassment ranged from sexual calls and emails to actually being locked in a conference room and inappropriately touched by him. She also claims that other employees were sexually harassed by her boss and others, stating "The culture and leadership at Alltech created an environment which fostered and condoned acts of sexual harassment."

The employee allegedly reported the situation to her boss's supervisor who told her not to worry about it because she was a strong woman and could take care of herself. In April 2011 she went to someone who worked outside the company - an auditor - and reported what had been happening. It was announced shortly thereafter that all emails over a year old would no longer be kept, and Alltech began an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. Her boss resigned from the company, but was kept on for special projects at the beginning of May 2011.

Then on May 17, the company stated that any employee disputes would be handled through arbitration rather than through the courts. The employee was told this new policy would cover her complaints even though she had complained before the policy was put in place. The employee did not agree with this policy and she left the company and filed a lawsuit on May 20, 2011. Alltech tried to have the lawsuit dismissed based on their new arbitration policy, but the courts said the employee had not agreed to the policy and the case was allowed to proceed. To avoid having depositions taken of their executives and other employees, the company agreed to settle the lawsuit with the Kentucky worker for an undisclosed amount.

We recently wrote an article on our personal injury website regarding arbitration agreements that doctors are requiring patients to sign before they will treat them. The same type of agreement can be used in other situations, including at the workplace. The courts did not uphold the arbitration agreement in the Alltech case because the employee had never signed the agreement and it was put in place after she had filed her sexual harassment complaint. However, if an employer requires its workers to sign this type of agreement when they are hired, it would most likely be a binding agreement and the workers would not be able to request a trial before a judge and jury if there was a harassment or discrimination issue that arose.

If you are asked to sign this type of agreement before you are hired, a Kentucky employment law attorney can answer any questions you may have. Charles Miller and Rheanne Falkner are Kentucky employment attorneys that have over eight years of experience in helping Kentucky workers deal with sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination and employment contract issues.

Sources:

Suit alleging sexual harassment at Alltech is settled; Lexington Herald-Leader; Janet Patton; June 1, 2012

Former Alltech employee alleges sexual harassment and retaliation; Lexington Herald-Leader; Linda Blackford; May 25, 2011