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- Stop and Prevent Sexual Harassment

Products and Services to Stop and Prevent Sexual Harassment
from The Employers Association

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Updates on Sexual Harassment

Updates on Sexual Harassment - Archives

FOURTH QUARTER 2003

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 news.

  • Victim of Flashing Loses Suit The U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled in December that a computer technician whose co-worker exposed himself to her was not sexually harassed. The court noted that after the incident, the woman worked at home until the co-worker was suspended and then fired. The court said, "Expressive conduct without any physical touching of the victim is not generally severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of employment," under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The court said the man's exposure "could not be described as physical, intimate, or forcible." The court also said that there was no working relationship between the two employees, and that the woman's working environment was not altered by the incident. She never saw the co-worker again because he was suspended and then fired. Finally, the court added that, "The infrequent, one-time incident did not take place in an intimate setting; instead it occurred in a place where other co-workers could see and hear." The case is Gonzales v. NeustarInc., N.D. Ill., No. 02-C-7404, 12/4/03. 1/12/04 Full story in the January Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • Court Rules Curbing Office Romance is Not Sex Bias In a recent case in Ohio, an employee began a relationship with a married co-worker whose husband also worked at the plant. The couple began to display their affection for each other while at work. Including among the incidents reported to management, the employees were seen kissing "pretty passionately" in the plant lobby and another employee reported being offending by their behavior. Management concluded that the behaviors were inappropriate at work and asked the couple to stop their excessive displays of affection. The male employee claimed that a number of disciplinary actions were taken against him, including filing an incident report citing him for giving the married co-worker a goodbye kiss, confining him to his department and threatening to fire him if he were caught holding the woman's hand, and threatening to file sexual harassment charges against him on the co-worker's behalf. The man filed suit, claiming that female employees were not disciplined for similar harmless displays of affection. The court ruled that the man failed to show the alleged discrimination was the result of his gender. The evidence showed that both he and his girlfriend were warned that any further display of affections would not be tolerated. He did not show that similarly situation women were treated differently. Rather, the court said that his claim of discrimination was based on whom he was dating, not because of his sex, therefore no sex discrimination took place. 1/01/04 Related stories in the January Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • Eleventh Circuit Allows Company to Use Affirmative Defense The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc. was not liable for a supervisor's alleged sexual harassment of a saleswoman. The court said the company had distributed an anti-harassment policy, the woman delayed in reporting the alleged incidents, and the company acted promptly when it received her complaint. The court affirmed a lower court's ruling for the employer, saying that Ortho was entitled to present an affirmative defense to the employee's allegations of harassment and added that, "at least under the circumstances of this case, that defense is a complete one." 12/22/03 Related stories in the December Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • UPS Driver Allowed to Proceed with Suit The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that a United Parcel driver who said she was harassed for years and then constructively discharged when she returned from pregnancy leave, can sue her employer for sexual harassment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but not for retaliation under Title VII or the Family and Medical Leave Act. The woman said that from the time she started working at the shipping company in 1990, she was subjected to offensive gender-related jokes, conduct, and comments by supervisors and co-workers that created a sexually hostile environment. She also said she complained to her supervisors, but that they took no action. 12/10/03 Related stories in the December Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • Allegations of Sexual Harassment Continue at Air Force Academy Air Force Academy leaders said that twelve cases of sexual assault or harassment have been reported at the academy since new leaders took over in April. Nine cases apparently took place within the last six months, while the other three happened earlier but were reported after the change in leadership, spokesman John Van Winkle said. "The bad news is that it's occurring...we want to stop that,'" said Johnny Whitaker, the academy's director of communications. "The good news is that it appears people are willing to come forward." This is the first of such reports since the academy's sexual assault scandal began in January. Scores of female cadets say commanders ignored their reports and punished some women for coming forward. Since that time, new leadership has been put into place and a sexual assault response team has been established. 12/1/03 Related stories in the December Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • Women in Japan Get 'Grope-Free' Subways: The most crowded subway in Japan's second-largest city, Osaka, has decided to offer women-only subway cars all day long. The change was due to widespread complaints that women passengers are regularly subjected to groping. The Midosuji subway line, which serves the largest business districts in the western city of Osaka, has designated one car on each of its 10-car trains as off-limits to men since last November. However, amid complaints that this has not solved the problem, the Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau now plans to expand the service from the current time slow of 5 am to 9 am until the last train leaves after midnight, according to bureau spokeswoman Hiroko Takada. 11/21/03 Related stories in the November Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • House Reauthorizes FCRA Excluding Investigations of Employees: The House voted 392-30 in September to reauthorize the Fair Credit Reporting Act with a bill that removes third-party investigations of alleged employee misconduct from the act's requirements for notice and disclosure. Section 601 of the FACT Act would exclude employee investigations communications from the FCRA's definition of "consumer report" unless the investigation involves the employee's credit worthiness, credit standing, or credit capacity. The act would require employers to only disclose a summary of the investigative report after taking adverse action against an employee and that summary would not have to identify individuals who provided information. 11/10/03 Full story in the October Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • EEOC Sues Car Dealership: EEOC filed suit against a Chrysler dealership, Chuck Daggett Motors of Portales, New Mexico, claiming sexual harassment of female employees, including two women who were pregnant. The two women allegedly were scorned and ridiculed for being pregnant while working at the dealership. Two other women said they were subjected to sexist and anti-female remarks while working at Daggett. EEOC also claims the dealership failed to pay medical insurance premiums for one of the women because of her gender. 10/30/03 Full story in the October Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • Importance of Trust at Work: According to Dennis and Michelle Reina, principals with the consulting firm Chagnon & Reina, trusting the people one works with is a fundamental part of an effective, productive organization. At the same time, they say trust can be a rare commodity at work. The Reinas were surprised, after interviewing employees at 67 different organizations, by how often they heard the words "I can not trust" when employees talked about co-workers, supervisors and team members. Dennis Reina said, "At its core, business is built around relationships" and daily at work, a person has an encounter with another that carries the potential to "diminish, break down, or destroy trust" in that relationship. Michelle Reina said, "The small things absolutely count. The consequences can be pervasive. There's that creeping, rippling effect." She said when the betrayer is not one person, but the organization itself or its leaders, the breach of trust "robs us of our creativity and innovation. A low level of trust can throw employee loyalty off-center. It causes us to question and wonder about ourselves, 'Do I have what it takes? Is this really the place for me?'" The impact of sexual harassment on trust can be substantial. 10/23/03 Full story in the October Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • Washington Agency Limits Office Romances: Washington state's Department of Social and Health Services announced it is preparing to ban intraoffice romances between supervisors and employees. DSHS is the state's largest department and has been dealing with costly consequences of a sexual harassment scandal at Western State Hospital. DSHS Secretary Dennis Braddock said, "We care because it is bad for morale, and it exposes us to liability. We're not trying to prohibit love." Sherer Murtiashaw, the agency's human resources director, said a policy will be sent to all 18,000 DSHS employees in October stating that employees dating within their "chain of command" must report "consensual sexual relationships" or face discipline. While dating peers and nonsupervising managers is still permitted, those dating in the chain of command can be transferred immediately, she said. 10/13/03 Full story in the October Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

  • EEOC Wins Over $4 Million Retaliation Claim: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that a federal jury awarded $4,050,000 to Stephanie Denninghoff following a four- day trial conducted on her behalf by EEOC against Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center, Inc. for unlawful retaliation. The jury awarded $1,050,000 in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages to Denninghoff after she was forced to resign from her position as Director of Operative Services following her attempts to prevent sexual harassment in the hospital's operating rooms and facility. "I feel vindicated," said Denninghoff, following the jury's verdict. 10/06/03 Full story in the October Webb Report - Subscribe Now!

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