Sexual harrassment in the Workplace

Date: 12/7/17
Title: Sexual harrassment in the Workplace


Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Lately, allegations of sexual harassment against prominent people are riddled throughout all news avenues.  Pick up the paper; turn on the TV, scour the internet and each day new allegations are being brought to our attention.

How does this impact your workplace?  It become acceptable to make allegations of harassment.  Even though claims of harassment in the workplace have risen to an all-time high, many victims have held off making claims out of fear of reprisal or loss of their job.  The open discussions in the media typically give employees strength to pursue claims that they may not have felt comfortable pursuing in the past.

EEOC even published a section on their website titled “
What You Should Know: What to do if you Believe You Have Been Harassed at Work.”  The EEOC guidance provides the reader with good information, such as: (1) review your employer’s anti-harassment policy, (2) follow the steps of the policy, (3) if no policy exists, talk to your supervisor or any supervisor within the organization but it also informs your employees about retaliation protection and avenues for filing a charge of discrimination. 

In the last published charge statistics (FY 2016) EEOC received 28,216 charges based on harassment, which yielded monetary payouts of $125.5 million.  For sexual harassment alone, there were 12,860 charges filed and financial settlements of $40.7 million.   

As identified by EEOC’s in their 
press releases, in the past three months there were two financial settlements and eight lawsuits filled by EEOC based on sexual harassment. The following is a summary of that activity.

  • Trans Ocean Seafoods [11/30/17] – paid $75,000 to three former females employees.  A male employee made sexually explicit comments on a near-daily basis about and in front of female workers, including a 17 year old and her mother. 
  • Anchor Staffing [11/2/17] – EEOC sued the company for failing to respond adequately to an employee’s complaint about sexual harassment and ended her assignment and denied her future assignments.
  • Clougherty Packing, LLC [10/16/17] – paid $100,000 and entered into a two-year consent decree.  Company supervisors and employees sexual harassed a class of female employees.
  • La Fiesta Fresh Mexican Grill and Cantina [10/2/17] – EEOC sued the restaurant for subjecting a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment which included unwelcome sexual comments and touching by a significantly older male manager and retaliating against her by reducing her hours.
  • Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc. and BJ’s Service Company, Inc. [9/27/17] – EEOC sued the seafood processor and staffing firm for maintaining and failing to remedy a hostile work environment where female workers were subjected to ongoing sexual harassment by line supervisors and managers.  Harassment included solicitations for sex, lewd comments about women’s bodies, and inappropriate touching.
  • IHOP [9/21/17] – EEOC sued the restaurant chain in Nevada and New York for failing to prevent and correct ongoing sexual harassment and retaliation.  The company took no corrective action when the employees complained, per policy, to local management and instead, the complainants work hours were reduced and some were terminated.
  • IHOP [9/19/17] – EEOC sued two franchises when a male general manager and at least two cooks in Illinois sexually harassed numerous female employees.  The alleged harassment included regular and repeated sexual touching and grabbing, lewd sexual comments and requests for sex, and offensive and threatening gestures.  Owners and managers were aware of the sexual harassment but failed to investigate or take any action.
  • Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, Inc. [9/18/17] – EEOC sued the company for failing to stop sexual harassment of a female employee and fired her when she complained of the harassment.  The harassment included requests for sex and sexual favors and crude sexual comments and gestures.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill [9/18/17] – EEOC sued the fast-food chain for allowing a restaurant manager in California to sexually harass her subordinate and retaliating against him after he reported the misconduct.  The male shift manager was forced to endure intrusive verbal and physical harassment by the female general manager whereby she discussed her own sex life and posted a daily “sex scoreboard” in the main office about the staff’s sex lives.  She also told the shift manager that she wanted to suck his genitals, watch him have sex with his girlfriend, and engage in a “threesome.”  She also slapped, groped and grabbed his privates.
  • American Queen Steamboat Company [9/13/17] – EEOC sued the steamboat company after it fired an employee after he supported his coworker’s complaint about sexual harassment. He criticized the company for failing to stop the harassment and for alerting the alleged harasser about the complaint. 
  • Jax, LLC operating a Golden Corral [9/8/17] – EEOC sued the North Carolina restaurant for discriminating against an employee with a disability and subjecting him to a hostile work environment based on his disability and sex.  In addition to calling him names, using profanity, the male assistant manager requested oral sex, threatened sexual assault and subjected him to physical conduct. 

In 2016, EEOC released the results of a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace which was initiated after the EEOC Commissioners were struck by the large number of sexual harassment cases they receive on an annual basis.  The report offers solutions to help prevent sexual harassment; however, the agency cautions that it is only “one piece of the solution.”

The Supreme Court decisions on workplace harassment require employers to show that they undertook “reasonable care” to prevent and promptly correct harassment.  According to the EEOC, this typically “requires an employer to establish, disseminate, and enforce an anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure, and to take other reasonable steps to prevent and correct harassment, such as training employees about employer policies and procedures.  Whether or not an employer can prove that it exercised reasonable care in any particular case depends on the particular factual circumstances.  No one training is sufficient to establish reasonable care.”

If you would like assistance to help your staff better understand sexual harassment (and/or other forms of harassment, feel free to 
contact us.

Disclaimer: The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.