Court Upholds Anonymity of Sexual Harassment Complaint
In the case of Rocque v. Freedom of Information Commission (Commission), a commission and newspaper challenged the judgment of the Connecticut Superior court finding that a department’s records pertaining to a sexual harassment investigation were exempt from public disclosure.
In the case at hand, the freedom of information commission ordered a department to provide a newspaper with copies of certain records pertaining to a sexual harassment investigation. The department then appealed to the trial court, which reversed the commission’s decision and held that disclosure of the information would constitute an invasion of personal privacy. The appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part. It affirmed with respect to the finding that the identity of the sexual harassment complainant and certain other information related to the investigation were exempt from disclosure as highly offensive and not of legitimate public concern. It reversed with respect to the finding that portions not related to the identity of the complainant or containing sexually explicit information were exempt from disclosure. It also reversed with respect to the finding that the identity of a sexual harassment complainant and other information related to the investigation were always exempt from disclosure.
The judgment of the trial court was affirmed in part and reversed in part. In summation, the court determined that the protection of a complainant for a sexual harassment complaint should have their anonymity protected. The court concluded that: “disclosing the identity of the sexual harassment complainant would be highly offensive to a reasonable person because of the unique sensitivity of the issues involved and the reluctance of sexual harassment victims to come forward because of the fear that they will be disbelieved or exposed in some way.”
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Source: Rocque v. Freedom of Info. Comm’n, 255 Conn. 651, 774 A.2d 957, 2001 Conn. LEXIS 85, 144 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P59,313, 29 Media L. Rep. 1942 (Conn. 2001)
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