Pacific Resources
3020 W. Arrowood Road
Charlotte, NC 28273 USA
- Stop and Prevent Sexual Harassment

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


The Webb Report Archives 2001

Webb Report Table of Contents

Archives of Webb Reports

THE WEBB REPORT - December 2001

Court Allows Suit to Go Forward:

According to a federal district court in Pennsylvania, a machine shop worker can go ahead with her sexual harassment suit against her former employer because the company's internal policy required her to report the behavior to her supervisor. In this case, the supervisor was one of the alleged harassers.

The woman was hired as an assembler and then transferred to the machine shop. She claimed that she faced a sexually hostile work environment and repeated inappropriate sexual comments and touching. She also said she saw pornography on her supervisor's computer and that her co-workers tampered with her tools and circulated a nude picture of her. She said that the behaviors caused her to start drinking again after being sober for a number of years.

The woman finally suffered a mental breakdown and was fired. The employer denied most of the allegations and gave evidence that the woman had been drinking before her claim and that her breakdown "resulted in inappropriate work activity" which led to her termination.

The court said that the employer's evidence and defense that it had a sexual harassment policy in place was not adequate, despite the fact that the employer showed that "much of the harassment never took place."

The woman showed that she was given gifts by a supervisor and that she was ultimately fired in response to her reaction to the harassment.

The court said that the employee "was required to report to her supervisor, one of the alleged harassers. Further, when she did complain of the harassment, she was told to retaliate against her co-workers in kind. Therefore, the employee has presented evidence that the employer's policy was ineffective and that her failure to pursue the policy was reasonable." Thus the court allowed the case to proceed to trial.

The case is Hare v. H&R Indus. Inc., E.D. Pa., No. 00-CV-4533, 11/7/01.


THE WEBB REPORT - November 2001

9 to 5 Calls for End to Harassment:

Ten years after the Clarence Thomas hearings made sexual harassment a household word, a national women's organization says the problem remains pervasive. According to 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women, whose staff speak to thousands of women each year on a toll-free hotline, no industry is free of harassment. However, the group points to important progress that's been made and maintains sexual harassment is a problem that can be solved.

"A decade after Thomas, Anita Hill has been vindicated," says 9 to 5 Co-Director Ellen Bravo and co-author of The 9 to 5 Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment. "She helped break the silence and lay the groundwork for some important advances." Bravo pointed to these examples:

- More people know that sexual harassment is against the law and where to go for help.
- A far greater number of employers have anti-harassment policies in place and have instituted awareness training programs.
- Several states have strengthened their anti-harassment laws.
- The Supreme Court, which in 1991 had heard only one sexual harassment case, has since rendered a number of decisions which help clarify what constitutes harassment and when employers are liable for such behavior.
- The EEOC has pursued several high-profile cases, such as those against Mitsubishi and Dial.

At the same time, much confusion and misunderstanding exist. "If the Thomas hearings served as a national teach-in on sexual harassment, the 'teachers' were seriously ill-informed," says Bravo. "No one on the Senate Judiciary Committee was an expert on the issue, and no experts were permitted to testify. As a result, misinformation received considerable air time. Some politicians and commentators seized on the confusion and a backlash resulted."

Commentators and politicians who fuel the backlash love to point to the example of the 6-year-old boy in Lexington, NC who was suspended in 1996 for giving a female classmate a peck on the cheek. They also point to the so-called "Seinfeld case" involving an executive at Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee. According to media coverage, the manager told a joke about a Seinfeld episode to a female co-worker who was offended and filed a formal complaint. The manager was fired for sexual harassment, sued and was awarded $26 million.

Both these examples were badly distorted. The young boy was indeed suspended -- "a foolish over-reaction on the part of a school official," says Bravo. "But such an outcome is the rare exception, not the rule. Had the media devoted a fraction of the coverage this story got to the problem of sexual harassment in schools and innovative programs designed to deal with it, our children would be much better off."

As for the Seinfeld case, the facts are very different from the media story. The executive, Jerold MacKenzie, didn't tell a joke. The woman wasn't a co-worker; she had been his direct subordinate for years until just before this incident. She never made a formal complaint. And MacKenzie, who had a history of problems at the company, was fired for poor management and poor judgment, not for sexual harassment. He did sue and did win (although the verdict was overturned), but the decision was based almost entirely on an unrelated contract dispute.

The real problem isn't policies run amok, according to 9 to 5, but those who trivialize the day-to-day reality of harassment, blame activists instead of those responsible for discrimination, and ignore the ongoing lack of resources for education and enforcement. While the majority of Fortune 500 companies provide some training, most workers across the country don't receive any. Some cases have resulted in large settlements, but most people who experience harassment never report it. Of the minority who do, most complainants never receive a cent.

In 1999, a teenager wrote to the Dear Abby syndicated advice column saying she was being sexually harassed. The column printed 9to5's toll-free hotline number (1-800-522-0925). Within five days, the organization received more than 800 calls. Unlike the calls following the Thomas hearings in 1991, most callers were not confused or uncertain. They knew that the offensive behavior they'd experienced was sexual harassment. And most of them had complained to higher-ups. The problem was that their employers had taken no action to stop the harassment.

"We heard many stories of retaliation," Bravo says. "A surprising number of callers did not know there were federal or state agencies they could complain to. Some were dealing with violence or threats of violence."

What's needed? According to 9 to 5:

- More action by employers to do just what the Supreme Court required: take reasonable care to prevent harassment or stop it quickly should it occur. That calls for more than a few lines in the company handbook. It means clear procedures, a variety of channels for reporting, meaningful training for all employees, prompt, effective investigation that preserves due process, suitable discipline when a complaint has merit, and appropriate follow-up and monitoring.
- More state laws like Maine and Connecticut have, requiring employers to have policies in place and to train all employees.
- More funding for the EEOC to pursue cases.
- More education in the schools, teaching students the difference between flirting and harassment--and what to do should they experience or witness offensive sexual behavior.

"In the final analysis," Bravo says, "the solution to sexual harassment is full equality for women and real justice on the job. But until we achieve that as a nation, employers and public policymakers can take these sensible steps."

9 to 5 has numerous examples of women who have been harassed. To arrange an interview with 9 to 5 staff or with one of these women, or for more information, call 414-274-0926. This article is from a press release issued by 9 to 5.


THE WEBB REPORT - October 2001

Abuse, Harassment Rampant in South Africa:

According to a report by the Human Rights Watch organization, thousands of girls are being raped, harassed and victimized by fellow students and teachers in South African schools. The report also said that in addition to widespread sexual abuse across economic and racial lines in the schools, the school administrators do not protect victims or punish perpetrators.

While South African has a constitution considered among the world's most liberal--one that guarantees equal rights and nondiscrimination--life for South Africa's girls continues to challenging and some say even dangerous.

The report said, "Although girls in South African have better access to school than many of their counterparts in other sub-Saharan African states, they are confronted with levels of sexual violence and sexual harassment in schools that impede their access to education."

The groups focused on South African schools because violence against girls is very severe there and is recognized by both government officials and nongovernmental organizations as a problem that must be eliminated.

HRW called on the South African government to issue guidelines on how schools should respond to reports of violence, promote codes of conduct for teachers, publish clear punishments for violations of the codes, and offer counseling for victims of in-school violence.

Erika George, who authored the report after interviewing almost 100 schoolgirls last year, said "Children are feeling failed. Schools more often than not conceal abuse. Schools don't cooperate with the police or investigators."

In one case, a 15-year-old girl from Johannesburg's northern suburbs, identified only as "MC," said a teacher asked her to come to his room at her boarding school. She said, "I thought: He's a teacher, it'll be fine."

She said the teacher then gave her alcohol and raped her.

According to the report, when the girl's parents reported the incident to school administrators, they were told not to discuss it with anyone. Her parents were outraged and called police.

When the allegations became public, six other girls made similar complaints against the same teacher.

The girl left school soon after because she was being teased about the incident.

According to Molatwane Likhethe, spokesman for the minister of education, said the South African government recognizes this problem and has been to work on it. "We are trying to be responsive. We understand the future implications of this problems," Likhethe said.

Last year, Education Minister Kader Asmal wrote to his staff: "There must be an end to the practice of male teachers demanding sex with schoolgirls...Having sex with learners betrays the trust of the community. It is also against the law."

Experts say the lower status of women in South African culture, poverty and violence in many communities, plus the lingering effects of the apartheid era, all combine to contribute to the hostile environment for girls and undermines their ability to protect themselves.

A survey of 2,000 teenagers last year found that 39 percent of sexually active teen girls reported being raped.

About one-third of sexually active teen girls reported being afraid of saying no to sex.

In a 1998 Department of Health survey of thousands of rape victims in South Africa, 38 percent said a school teacher or principal raped them.

Reports are that the AIDS epidemic also contributes to the problem. Sexual predators may target young girls because virgins are thought to be free from aids. Moreover, HIV-positive men who believe the widespread myth that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS, may rape children with the hope of being cured.



Laundry's Labor Problems Threaten Contracts:

Up-To-Date Laundry, a Southwest Baltimore Business accused by workers of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, must resolve its labor issues in less than two months or risk losing two major clients.

The University of Maryland Medical Center and the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel have both sent letters telling the company that they would end their contracts within sixty days if problem continue. Both said they are "troubled by continuing allegations that there are serious violations of employee rights."

The attorneys representing Up-To-Date disputed the claims which are being investigated by the Maryland Commission on Human Relations. The lawyers said they are close to settling the claims and hope to do so within he sixty day period.

Larry Wolf, a lawyer for the laundry, said a proposed agreement with the commission would require the company to pay back wages to employees, as well as to institute an internal system for employees to register complaints.

Up-To-Date, the state's largest industrial laundry, has contracts with major health institutions in the area, including Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medstar Health System which includes Georgetown University Hospital and Union Memorial Hospital. dry, has contracts with major health institutions in the area, including Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medstar Health System which includes Georgetown University Hospital and Union Memorial Hospital.

Katie Shaller, a spokeswoman for the Union of Needletraders, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE!), said "We think it's a great development, and both institutions have chosen the right path. The institutions are concerned about their own reputations as they should be."

University of Maryland spokesperson Joan Shnipper said the situation is delicate because Up-To-Date does good work and is the only laundry in the area big enough to handle the medical center's job. "The only alternative is to go out of state, and that is much more expensive," Shnipper said.

Laundry workers allege that the company has been abusing its staff, which is mostly African-American and Latino, over the last two years.

Up-To-Date, a family-run company founded in 1946, washes 28 million pounds of linens a year. Many employees are recent immigrants, do not speak English and are bused in from Washington suburbs. The majority earn $6.00 an hour. UNITE!, which has 250,000 members nationwide, lost a 1999 election to represent Up-To-Date's workers.

The National Labor Relations Board called for another election in a March settlement agreement, which requires Up-To-Date to re-hire workers it fired, pay $50,000 in back wages and allow another union election. The NLRB has said Up-To-Date is complying with those terms. The laundry acknowledged no wrongdoing in the settlement.

The two letters of support, from Sheraton's general manager Jon P. Koscher and the University of Maryland's Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer John W. Ashworth, were apparently intended to remain private.

The union said it got copies recently and then made them public.



Court Looks for Tangible Elements in Claims:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in Murray v. Chicago Transit Authority that a senior vice president who initially failed to complain about suggestive remarks she said were made by the authority's president did not prove she was sexually harassed.

When the new president was hired, he put a moratorium on travel for all managers because of budget concerns he said. The female vice president, who had worked for the authority twenty years, was scheduled to speak at an upcoming conference, so she asked to meet with the president to discuss her making the trip.

The woman alleged that the president asked her where she was staying at the conference and suggested that they have drinks and dinner together. She said that when she told him her husband and her daughter were accompanying her on the trip, the president said, "I want to have dinner and drinks alone with you." He also allegedly said that she had to "learn who the boss is" and that he would not approve her request for travel.

The woman said that after this incident her working environment deteriorated. She claimed she was publicly ridiculed at a meeting and that the chairman of the board hired a new general counsel without allowing her to interview for the job.

The new general counsel cancelled a luncheon that the vice president was scheduled to attend, took away her cellular phone, reassigned her car to the authority's car pool, and asked her to review phone bills for the past two years and pay for her personal calls, she said.

The woman told no one at work about the problem, and when she became depressed and anxious and had to take a disability leave, she still told no one at work the reason. It was only after her husband, an attorney, met with the authority's outside counsel that the woman's charges were investigated.

The vice president sued for sexual harassment. A federal district court ruled for the employer and the woman appealed. The appeals court affirmed the lower court, saying that the U.S. Supreme Court distinguished between cases that involve tangible employment action against an employee and those that do not.

The court said, "The question of whether the harassment led to a tangible employment action is critical." If a tangible action occurred, an employer is not allowed an affirmative defense. If no tangible action took place, an employer may show that it acted with reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the harassment and that the employee failed to take advantage of those preventative or corrective opportunities.

The court went on to say that tangible employment action include such things as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a significant change in benefits. The vice president argued that the president's refusing to allow her to attend the conference was a tangible employment action. The court said, "Not everything that makes an employee unhappy is an actionable adverse action. Otherwise, minor and even trivial employment actions" could form the basis for a lawsuit.

If the employee had "complained more promptly or had there been additional 'dinner invitations,' we might very well have a different case," the court said. But she waited nine months and failed to take advantage of her employer's sexual harassment policy. The appeals court said, "In short, she acted in precisely the manner a victim of sexual harassment should not act in order to win recovery." Murray v. Chicago Transit Auth., 7th Cir., No. 99-3774, 5/10/01.



Supreme Court Rejects Limits on Awards:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that victims of on-the-job mistreatment may collect unlimited cash awards to make up for when they would have earned if they had been treated fairly and stayed on the job.

According to experts, this ruling was a victory for employee rights and civil liberties groups, and a setback for employers who hoped to limit jury awards that can often run into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

The court ruled in the case of a woman whose male co-workers at a Du Pont plant in Tennessee harassed and demeaned her, including refusing to associate with her after she was chosen to speak to girls visiting the plant for Take Your Daughters to Work Day.

Lower courts had ruled for Sharon Pollard and agreed she deserved to be compensated for money she would have made if working conditions had not forced her to leave her job, a circumstance known as "constructive discharge." However, the lower courts also ruled that the 1991 Civil Rights Act limited her compensation to $300,000, instead of the $800,000 she asked for.

Other federal courts have not applied the 1991 limit to the "front pay" that Pollard sought, and in its ruling, the Supreme Court found that the limit is unjustified.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said Congress left the door open for front pay awards by authorizing "such affirmative action as may be appropriate." Further, Thomas wrote, unlimited front pay should be available both to workers who stay on the job as well as those who leave.

"I would hope that employers would take from this 8-0 decision the clear message that they have nothing to gain by making life unpleasant and difficult for those whom they have discriminated against," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center, on of more than a dozen organizations that signed friend-of -the-court briefs supporting Pollard.

Pollard's lawyer, Kathleen Caldwell, said "It's a strong, strong decision which is going to stand the test of time." She said Pollard "has been laughing and crying all at the same time."

The case, Pollard v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., began in 1987, when Pollard, who worked at DuPont's chemical factory in Western Tennessee for 10 years, was promoted to operator in charge of a ship in the peroxide area. Following her promotion, one male worker put a Bible on her desk open to the passage: "I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man. She must be silent."

Other male workers in her area publicly called women "heifers" and other vulgar names. The men used staff meetings to voice their opinions that women were not capable of doing anything right.

In addition, male employees set off false alarms which required that Pollard rush around the peroxide area checking the pipes and valves in search of nonexistent problems. According to the suit, male workers also moved the vats of peroxide off the ventilators before it was time, so that the damaged product would appear to be Pollard's fault.

No one in the peroxide area was disciplined for the harassment, despite Pollard's complaints to her supervisor and other higher-ups at the company. Finally, in July 1995, the harassment became too much, and DuPont's psychologist advised her to take medical leave.

The company asked Pollard to return to work six months later, but refused to move her to a different shift or factory area. She then quit and sued.

While DuPont denied it knew about the harassment, the trial judge in federal district court said the facts showed "a case of wretched indifference to an employee who was slowing drowning in an environment that was completely unacceptable, while her employer sat by and watched." A federal circuit court agreed with the lower court's decision, calling the discrimination "flagrant."

The trial court awarded Pollard $300,000 in compensatory damages in payment for the pain, suffering and humiliation she had endured. Pollard, however, also asked for $500,000 for "front pay," with her attorneys arguing that the environment at DuPont was too unfriendly for her to return to work.

Front pay is awarded instead of reinstatement to the job when an employee cannot return to a job because, for example, the work environment is hostile or the job no longer exists. Both the trial court and the federal appeals court in this case denied the front pay award, ruling that the Civil Rights Act of 1991 imposed a $300,000 cap on compensatory damages and that front pay was meant to be included under the cap.

The Supreme Court's June 4 decision reversed that decision with Justice Thomas explaining that the Civil Rights Act of 1991 clearly was intended to expand the remedies available to victims of workplace sexual harassment, not to limit front pay, which was routinely awarded before the 1991 law was passed.

Before 1991, victims of sexual harassment were entitled to only what was called equitable relief, i.e. reinstatement to the job or front pay if reinstatement wasn't possible, as well as medical bills and lost wages prior to any court decision.

In 1990 and 1991, activists pushed for a new federal civil rights bill to guarantee workers suing for sex discrimination the same rights that people suing for racial and ethnic discrimination enjoyed: a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages. The reasoning was that increasing damages would further deter employers from knowingly tolerating discrimination.

To pass the bill, Congress agreed on a compromise--a $300,000 cap on compensatory and punitive damages for larger companies with lower caps for smaller companies. Many civil rights groups felt that capped damages were better than none.

Since 1991, different federal appeals courts have interpreted the Civil Rights Act differently, ruling in opposite ways on whether front pay was included under the cap. This ruling now ends that confusion.



Court Says Conduct Severity Merits Trial:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a summary judgment for the employer, saying that the severity of a former manager's alleged conduct with two young employees raised a triable issue of sexual harassment.

The two female employees, ages 15 and 20, claimed that the manager made sexual jokes and sexual remarks about their bodies on a daily basis and called them stupid in front of both customers and co-workers. The court said, "These allegations, if proven, would be more than sufficient to establish that the manager created an environment consumed by remarks that ridiculed and demeaned the status of women.

EEOC had alleged that the manager sexually harassed and retaliated against the two entry-level employees. The district court ruled that the behavior was not severe enough to create a triable issue of harassment and that there was not sufficient evidence to prove retaliation. The Fourth Circuit disagreed and reversed the district court's decision, remanding the case.

While the employer claimed that the manager was an "equal opportunity harasser who abused men and women alike." However, the appeals court said that his "curiosity and derision were reserved for the young women he supervised."

The court said "Boorish behavior may exist apart from any propensity to discriminate," and that to prove actionable harm, the conduct must be sever and pervasive from an objective and subjective viewpoint. The court said the subjective element was established by the women's testimony.

The court noted that an objective inquiry depends on the frequency and severity of the conduct, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating or merely offensive and whether it unreasonably interferes with the employee's work performance.

In this case, the employer claimed there were no allegations of unwanted touching, sexual propositions, or physical threats. However, the court said that the two women said the harassment took place daily and that one plaintiff also claimed that the manager sometimes touched her and brushed against her. He also made demeaning comments in front of other employees and customers, sometimes causing both women to cry, according to the court.

In citing Smith v. First Union Nat'l Bank, the court said, "A work environment consumed by remarks that intimidate, ridicule, and maliciously demean the status of women can create an environment that is as hostile as an environment that contains unwanted sexual advances."

The court also said that the severity of the manager's behavior was made worse by the contest in which in took place. "He was an adult male in a supervisory position over young women barely half his age and he is alleged to have engaged in a systematic effort to cripple the self-esteem of the teenagers who assisted him at the store." The court said "The incessant put-downs, innuendoes, and leers directed at these young women literally caused them to become sick at the prospect of going to work," and ruled that the conduct unreasonably interfered with the women's work performance.

The employer raised the affirmative defense as outlined under Burlington Inds. Inc. v. Ellerth, and argued that the company exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct harassing behavior and that the employees unreasonably failed to take advantage of the corrective opportunities. However, the court found that the two young women "complained at virtually every available opportunity" and that the employer had failed to promptly correct the harassment.

The court also reversed the district court on the retaliation claim. One employee, after complaining, was suspended by the manager and never recalled to work. The other women alleged that after she complained, the manager cursed at her and her hours were reduced to the point that she quit, the court said.

The Fourth Circuit includes Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The case is EEOC v. R&R Ventures, 4th Cir., No. 00-1702, 3/23/01.



Sexual Harassment In Marine Corps:

According to Maj. Frank Keefe, the case of sexual harassment involving Missouri's Fort Leonard Wood is a "rarity" and is causing a great deal of embarrassment to top Marine Corps officials. One Marine Corps staff sergeant pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct charges, and three others are to be court-martialed on charges of sexual misconduct.

Staff Sgt. Howard W. Ross of Baltimore pleaded guilty to charges of fraternization with a student, stealing money from students, maltreatment of a student through sexual harassment, and transportation, receipt and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 12 months' confinement, a reduction in pay grade and a bad-conduct discharge. All four named Corps members trained new Marines in motor transport.

The other three were charged with fraternization, sexual harassment of students, providing alcohol to students and other offenses. They face a maximum sentence of six months' confinement, loss of two-thirds pay for six months, reduction if pay grade and bad-conduct discharges.

Keefe, a spokesman at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, said, "This alleged behavior is something that just tears at the very fabric of what we as the Marine Corps stand for. It's embarrassing for us as marines, and it's offensive to us, and that's part of the reason we take this so seriously. It's a rarity. I don't recall ever seeing something like this happen in the Marine Corps before."

Senator Christopher Bond, R-Mo., said, "Sexual harassment cannot be tolerated, inside or outside of our military, and I hope and expect that the Marine Corps will take the right steps to police its ranks in the wake of these disappointed reports."

Fort Leonard Wood is an Army post with a marine detachment that has a staff of 302 Marines responsible for training more than 6,000 Marines each year.

The investigation into the sexual harassment allegations began last October when claims were made against Staff Sgt. Ross. He was responsible for training entry-level Marines who had completed boot camp and early training and were undergoing military occupational specialty training, which in this case was motor transport.

The allegations against Ross led to a broader investigation, initially led by the Army Criminal investigative unity, then by the Naval Criminal investigative service and finally by the Military Police investigative branch from Quantico. Most of the investigative work since February has been conducted by the military police.

More than 400 former students and marine Corps instructors have been interviewed, most at installations around the world, some at Fort Leonard Wood. Keefe said that the reason most interviews took place elsewhere is that most of the alleged incidents took place between April and October last year and many who were interviewed have gone one to other assignments.

Keefe said the allegations range from violations of the fraternization policy to assault, larceny and sexual misconduct. Most involve the fraternization policy. None involves rape, he said.

Keefe went on to say that the Marine Corps inspector general conducted an assessment last month and found "no evidence that the alleged inappropriate conduct continues." As a result of the investigation, the detachment commander, Col. Richard A. Hobbs Jr., has increased the level of oversight for each class.

No timetable has been set to complete the inquiry


THE WEBB REPORT - April 2001

Female-Only Service Gets Mixed Reviews:

Keio Electric Railway Co. briefly offered a train service with women only cars at the end of last year and is debating whether t0 make it a regular feature.

The special car was introduced to prevent female passengers from being molested and harassed by male commuters. While public response has generally been favorable, some people have criticized the new service as being discriminatory against men.

A total of nine trains with a women only car left Shinjuku station shortly after midnight on weekends from December 8 to December 23. According to the firm, some 1,690 women passengers rode in the special cars.

"Almost all female respondents favored having women-only cars, and more than half of the male respondents also expressed support," said a company spokesperson after conducting a survey on this service.

However, on its web site, the firm received some 60 oppositions to the new service, most coming from men. One of the critics wrote that the service is a form of gender discrimination.

Another said it implied that all male passengers are perverts. A third suggested that the firm should charge an extra fee to use the special cars.

Keio is planning to closely analyze the survey results this month and reach a final decision in late February.

Women-only cars on trains were first introduced in parts of the Tokyo metropolitan area and in the Kansai region surrounding Osaka and Kyoto around 1950. They were meant to protect women riding in crowded trains during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

The construction of more train lines helped ease crowded conditions and the opposition to special treatment for women eventually made the railway operation discontinue the service.

Keihan Electric Railway Co., for example, renamed its special car 10 years ago to priority care and allowed children to ride in them as well. Unlike Keio, Japan Railway companies and other private operators are still reluctant to begin such a service. Nikkei Weekly, Tokyo, Japan, 1/29/01


THE WEBB REPORT - March 2001

Bias Alleged Against Trinity Industries:

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Trinity Industries claiming the Dallas company failed to stop male workers from physically assaulting, sexually harassing and retaliating against a female employee in Longview, Texas.

The suit alleges that workers at the rail car manufacturing facility created a hostile work environment for the 34-year-old worker who painted rail cars.

Trinity spokesman Mike Fortado said the company had not seen the suit but was aware of the woman's initial complaint. The suit was filed by EEOC's Dallas area office.

In a prepared statement, Trinity said the employee resigned from the company in 1997 and nearly a year later informed EEOC of her complaint. The company said it conducted its own investigation and found no substantiation for the complaint.

Trinity operates several rail car manufacturing facilities in Fort Worth and Saginaw.

The government's suit says that when the woman, who worked at the East Texas plant for about a year ending in February 1997, reported "lewd and sexually offensive behavior" to her supervisors, she was placed on the graveyard shift and given double the average workload. She also was made to clean up after her co-workers, who threw refuse at her and called her "trash woman" according to EEOC attorney William Backhaus.

"The kind of treatment to which this female employee was subjected shocks the conscience. She was kicked, slapped and targeted with an insufferable amount of sexual harassment of a very crude nature," according to Robert Canino, EEOC's regional attorney.

The woman is seeking damages including back pay and reinstatement of a job in another division of the company. Her suit also alleges that her civil rights were violated.


THE WEBB REPORT - February 2001

Pat on Bottom Not Sexual Harassment in Italy:

The highest Italian appeals court has ruled that a pat on the bottom is not sexual harassment. The Court of Cassation, agreed with an appeals court ruling, and said it found no evidence that a man intended "an act of libido." The court said the pat appeared to be "isolated" and "impulsive."

The case involved the manager of a public health agency in northern Italy and a female employee who said the man threatened to hurt her career if she reported the incident which took place in 1994.

According to the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, the man said, "The truth is, that woman had career expectations that I did not favor. It was her little revenge."

A lower court found the manager guilty and sentenced him to 18 months in prison and a $3,800 fine, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. The woman said, "After all I've been through and I've suffered, maybe I would advise another woman not to go to court."

Reaction to the decision came quickly and was strong. Cristina Matranga, a deputy with the conservative party Forza Italia, said "If ten different men each give us one single pat on the bottom should we go home happy?"

Alessandra Mussolini, a deputy of the right-wing National Alliance and granddaughter of dictator Benito Mussolini, called the ruling "a new shame and a new humiliation for women."

Others said the decision was appropriate and the objections were overreactions.

Antonio Pisanu, a 70-year-old teacher, said "Keep in mind that it was on top of her clothes, really nothing. If it were underneath the clothes, or if he had grabbed her, then it would be something."


THE WEBB REPORT - January 2001

Same-Sex Harassment Case Rejected by Court:

A Tennessee jury in U. S. District Court ruled that three male employees of the Metro Codes Administration were not entitled to any damages from the city or its zoning inspection chief, Don Swartz, whom they had accused of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Swartz testified that he is "100% heterosexual" and that a zoning inspector, Jeff Phillips, and other employees were overly sensitive to jokes that he made at the office. Attorneys for Metro and Swartz claimed that while he made have "made inappropriate use of language for the workplace," his behavior did not constitute sexual harassment under the law.

Several attorneys who handle sexual harassment cased told The Tennessean that it is harder to convince a jury that male-to-male sexual remarks create a "hostile work environment" than the same or similar remarks between those of the opposite sex.

The U. S. Supreme Court said in the 1998 Oncale case that it was possible for someone to sexually harass a person of the same gender, even if the "harassing conduct was not motivated by sexual desire." The court said, however, that "common sense and an appropriate sensitivity to social context will enable courts to distinguish between what is legal and illegal."

In this case, Swartz is still on the job, while Phillips, who made the initial complaint against Swartz in 1966, has been receiving a psychological disability pension since April 1999, based on a diagnosis of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. David Polhemus, a co-worker who backed up Phillips' story, is also receiving psychological disability benefits from Metro. Another inspector who testified for Phillips was fired in 1998 after his supervisors found out he had falsified his employment application and reports he filed as part of his job.

Attorney John Harris, who filed suit for all three men, said he believes it is harder to prove sexual harassment when only men are involved. "I think people are more receptive to claims of harassment by a male against a female subordinate." The trial in the Swartz case "involved a question of whether it was harassment or just horseplay," Harris said.

Swartz' lawyer, George Dean, said of the jury's verdict, "Ultimately, I think it was just a matter of common sense."

Phillips said Swartz squeezed his thigh once while they waited for a zoning hearing in General Sessions Court. Swartz said he "tapped" Phillips on the leg only after Phillips asked whether a man they say in court was "his type."

"If you were truly trying to come on to somebody, would you do it in the middle of a courtroom?" attorney Dean asked.

An equal opportunity investigator who looked into the zoning inspectors' claims concluded that some of Swartz' actions were inappropriate but were not discriminatory. That finding resulted in Swartz being suspended from work for 10 days without pay.

"We found no evidence of sexual harassment or retaliation in our own internal investigation, but I felt that some of "Don's statements were inappropriate for the workplace," said Terry Cobb, a director for Metro codes.

The suit against Swartz was not the first same-sex harassment case to be tried in federal court in this area. In 1995, a U.S. District Court jury awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages and $1.6 million in punitive damages to a former worker at the Waldenbooks warehouse in LaVergne who said the company did nothing in response to his complaints. He alleged that an openly homosexual supervisor had repeatedly made sexual remarks to him, touched him and insisted that the go with the supervisor on trips and come to parties at his home.

Later, U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman reduced the amount of punitive damages, which resulted in a request for a new trial and an eventual out-of-court settlement, the terms of which were not disclosed.

The Walden verdict was reached before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that it was possible for someone to sexually harass a person of the same gender, even if the "harassing conduct was not motivated by sexual desire."


Archives of Webb Reports


© The Employers Association, 1996- 
Associated Trademarks and All Rights Are Reserved 

Web Development: Wind's Eye Design, Inc.