Updates on Sexual Harassment
Updates on Sexual Harassment - Archives
SECOND QUARTER 2000
This section contains brief updates of recent sexual harassment complaints,
suits, settlements, awards, surveys and studies. The information is
gathered from many places and is intended to give an overview of the most
current events. It is not meant to provide an exhaustive list of all the
Limits on Damages Upheld by Federal Judge:
A federal judge in Denver upheld the constitutionality of a federal law that caused him to reduce a $1.7 million jury verdict to $50,000 several months ago. U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel refused to back down from his December 1999 ruling, saying the damages limit that Congress put into place in 1991 to protect small businesses sued by workers for sexual harassment and discrimination were to be applied in the case. Full story in the July Webb Report.
Male Worker Has Title VII
A federal magistrate in Illinois ruled that a mortgage company loan processor can proceed with his claims of hostile environment sexual harassment created by female co-workers. The man said that the women hired a stripper for an office party and posted pictures of the stripper at work.
The magistrate said that to succeed on the hostile environment claim, the man needed to show that he was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; that the harassment was based upon sex; that the harassment unreasonably interfered with his work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment; and that there was a basis for employer liability.
Lahey v. JM Mortgage Servs. Inc.
11th Circuit Rules Complaint Procedure Must Be Followed:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that a supermarket chain is entitled to an affirmative defense to the sexual harassment claims of two female employees because they failed to use the store's complaint procedure.
The Appeals Court said, "Once an employer has promulgated an effective anti-harassment policy and disseminated that policy and associated procedures to its employees, then ³it is incumbent upon the employees to utilize the procedural mechanisms established by the company specifically to address problems and grievances."
The Eleventh Circuit covers Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.
Airline Employee Wins Suit:
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ordered Northwest Airlines to pay approximately $300,000 in damages to a former female baggage handler. The commission ruled that the company refused to accommodate the womanıs disability because she cooperated with a sexual harassment investigation.
The woman, Deborah Mazeikus, maintained for the past five years that she was fired because she gave written testimony to state investigators in support of a sexual harassment complaint brought by the family of Susan Taraskiewicz, a 27-year-old co-worker who was found dead in the trunk of her car in 1992. The family settled its case with the airline in 1995 after claiming that their daughter had been repeatedly harassed on the job before her death. Full story in the June Webb Report
Domestic Attacks on Women Decline:
Attorney General Janet Reno reported that the rate at which American women are attacked or threatened by loved ones dropped 21 percent in the mid-1990s, but she said, 'Violence still devastates too many lives."
In a report, "Intimate Partner Violence," the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics described a widespread drop in violence among husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends that mirrors the general decline in serious crimes nationwide since 1992.
For more information from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice statistics, go to www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs.
Sheriff's Office Faces Sexual Harassment Suit:
A former employee of the Boone County, Missouri sheriff's department alleged in a federal suit that a co-worker sexually harassed her and then fired her when she complained. The woman claimed that a former sergeant harassed her and subjected her to "adverse actions" when she complained to the department.
The suit, filed March 17, names the sergeant and the sheriff. It seeks compensation for lost wages, reimbursement for damages and a letter of apology.
Harassment in Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department:
According to an independent assessment by Management Practices Group of San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Sheriff''s Department has an entrenched culture that tolerates racial and sexual harassment of its employees. The report said that a civilian commission should be established to review all complaints. Full story in the June Webb Report.
The University of Rhode Island acknowledged that its engineering school is hostile to women. The URI president Robert Carothers and The dean of the engineering college, Thomas Kim, agreed to apologize to female professors who were discriminated against. The acknowledgement was made after a faculty committee found evidence of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment toward women. The faculty union had filed a grievance against the college's dean.
Former Air Traffic Controller Wins Harassment Suit:
A St. Louis federal jury awarded $1,375,000 to a former air traffic controller in a sexual harassment suit she filed against the Federal Aviation Administration and a co-worker she said harassed her and tried to rape her. The jury deliberated over four hours before finding the FAA liable on two counts of sexual harassment and retaliation and ruling against the man on three counts of assault and battery.
She was awarded the full amount she sought from her former employer--$1,145,000--for emotional distress. The jury found against the man in the amount of $230,000 for emotional and punitive damages; the woman had asked $500,000 from him. Full story in the June Webb Report.
Doctor Pleads Guilty to Harassment, Again:
A former emergency room physician who has already served jail time for obscene phone calls recently pleaded guilty to stalking or harassing 16 former patients and a co-worker. The man faces up to 15 years in prison for his guilty pleas to felony criminal threat, felony stalking, misdemeanor harassment and misdemeanor battery, according to the assistant district attorney.
Sixteen of the victims were former patients at a medical center and the other victim was an emergency clinic employee.
The man admitted to repeatedly following or harassing the women from September 22, 1997, through October 9, 1998. The prosecutor said the man's behavior was sexually motivated.
Six Former Employees Win Suit Against Cabinet Company:
A federal jury awarded $190,000 in damages to six women who filed a sexual harassment suit against an Indiana woodworking company. The women who worked at a cabinet and furniture manufacturer said they had endured a hostile work environment of vulgar comment and crude gestures.
The women also said that their supervisor harassed them daily and the company ignored their complaints. The insults included crude anatomical terms for women, sexual references and racial insults.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the class-action suit on behalf of the women in 1998.
Wall Street Suit Settled:
Two Wall Street brokerage houses settled a $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit that was filed over alleged behavior that was so outrageous some compared them to "Animal House." Garban LLC and its affiliated firm, Garvin Guy Butler, were accused of allowing strippers onto the trading floor, permitting pornography in the office and allowing male workers to drop their pants in view of female employees.
Other complaints included male workers routinely bragging about their sexual exploits, using the bathroom with the door open and addressing women in vulgar terms. Employees who complained about the behavior were often threatened or fired, according to the lawsuit.
State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who announced the settlement, said "This case should send a strong message to all of Wall Street that we will not tolerate an old boys' club or frat-house atmosphere in the workplace. Spitzer's predecessor originally filed the lawsuit in 1998.
Department of Corrections Must Pay Damages:
A federal jury in Indiana ordered the state Department of Corrections to pay a former Michigan City prison guard $90,000 for sexual harassment. The jurors agreed that the woman was harassed by a supervisor and faced retaliation from prison officials for reporting the behavior to higher authorities.
The woman's attorney said sexual remarks were directed at the woman by her supervisor who was a sergeant working with her at the Indiana State Prison. When the woman reported the behavior she was reassigned to "a worse unit in the prison," where she had urine thrown on her by the prisoners, her attorney reported.
Gay Harassment and Sexual Harassment Together in Same Classes:
Some Army bases for the first time are grouping straight and homosexual anti-sexual harassment messages in the same lesson plan, prohibiting such gestures as winking, grunting, licking lips and patting a fellow soldier.
The instruction is just one way the four branches are carrying out Defense Secretary William Cohen's sweeping order of February 1 for military-wide sensitivity instruction. The order came after the brutal beating death of a soldier at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who was thought be be homosexual by his attacker and barracks mate.
Sexual Harassment Case at Car Dealership:
A U.S. District Court jury awarded $551,920 to a woman in her sexual harassment case against her former employer, Don Brown Chevrolet, Inc. The woman, who used to appear in television commercials with the dealership president when she was his sales manager, sought damages for emotional distress in the case.
The jury ordered the dealership to pay her $26,920 for emotional pain, including the cost of counseling, and $350,000 in punitive damages. In addition, the jury awarded her $25,000 on her claim of battery by the owner of dealership and ordered him to pay $150,000 more in punitive damages.
The woman testified that the man made comments at work about her body, tickled her, blew cigar smoke into her hair and licked his finger and stuck it in her ear. The woman worked at the dealership from August 1986 until she quit in October 1997.
Fired After Affair with Boss Case Dismissed:
A U. S. District Judge dismissed the case brought by a woman who had an affair with her boss and was then fired by him at his wife's instructions. The judge said the woman does not have a case for sex discrimination.
The woman sued her boss, the president of the company, a New York-based executive search firm, after he fired her following "consensual sex" according to court papers. She said her boss, who was one of the owners of the firm, told her he was firing her because his wife "disapproved" of the affair. The suit contends that later he told the woman to "call his wife at her therapist's office and 'beg' for her job back."
EEOC's Mediation Process Doing Well:
The EEOC's new mediation program has apparently received only praise during its first year of use. Diane Seltzer, a plaintiff's attorney in Washington, DC says, "I recommend it for all my clients. It's not a hard sell."
Charles Warner, a Columbus, Ohio attorney said while some employers stayed away from the program in the beginning because they saw it as a "Big Brother" type effort, they now are using the program. "It's not that way. Ninety percent of companies would recommend it to other people, " he said.
The program began in February 1999 and gives parties to employment discrimination suits the option of mediation. Full story in the April Webb Report.
Army's Highest-Ranking Woman Files Harassment Complaint:
Pentagon and government officials released a statement saying the Army's most-senior female officer filed a sexual harassment complaint against another Army general. The officer, Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, has often been presented as an example of the expanding opportunities for women. In her complaint, she accused another general of groping her in her office in 1996.
When the incident allegedly occurred, Kennedy complained informally to her supervisors and then filed a formal harassment complaint last year when the man received a prominent new assignment, according to Army officials. The sources said that in 1996 both the officers held the lesser rank of major general.
Student Charged in Cyber Harassment:
A University of Massachusetts student was charged with trespass against another student through computer trespassing. The male student had first asked the female student out on a date and she told him she wasn't interested. He persisted, according to investigators, calling her repeatedly at her home.
He then began following the woman around campus, from building to building, class to class. When she signed out a video from the library, he was right behind her, allegedly stealing her student ID number, which was also her Social Security number, in order to harass her in cyberspace, the authorities said.
In a statement the man allegedly gave to police after his arrest, he said he was upset that his advances were rejected but that he did not see his actions as harmful.
"I was mad at her. I didn't really want to hurt her at all. It was just for the fun of it," he said.
The information above is excerpted
or summarized from numerous sources not
written or originally researched by
Pacific Resource. We cannot guarantee
the acccurateness of the