The case of gross misbehavior going on at a West Tennessee auto parts store contained some unusual facts. All of the sides agreed that the conduct of the alleged harasser, who was also the store manager, was “repulsive.” Everyone agreed “that he got what he deserved when” the employer fired him shortly after its investigation. What wasn’t clear was whether the store manager held a role within the employer’s organization with enough power such that the employer could be liable for his harassing conduct. Ultimately, the courts decided that the employer was not liable in this case because of the limited authority the store manager actually held.
The hostile work environment case of one Georgia health care company employee offered a potentially novel and unique question, namely, can an employee pursue a hostile work environment case when she was not the victim of the alleged harassment and was not even present when the alleged harassment took place? In this case, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals did not need to answer this question to rule in favor of the employer because the employee’s evidence fell short of the law’s requirement that the alleged harassment be both severe and pervasive.
A nurse anesthetist, who was the recipient of two very unwelcome text messages from a co-worker encouraging her to have “wild sex” with her husband, lost her sexual harassment case against the co-worker and her employer. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling against the nurse anesthetist because the acts of harassment she endured were either unrelated to her gender or too few to constitute the sort of severe and pervasive harassment required by Title VII.
When an employee sues his employer in a sexual harassment case, there are several key pieces that go into that case. The court will look at the harasser’s conduct, as well as the employer’s response. For an employee to win against his employer, he must not only have been harassed, but also his employer’s response must have been improper. In a recent Tennessee case, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $300,000 jury verdict in favor of an employee. In that case, it was not so much an improper action taken by the employer but an improper inaction that doomed its case.
The employee who sued, Jeffry Smith, worked at Norcross, Ga.-based Rock-Tenn Services, Inc.’s facility in Murfreesboro. Smith suffered multiple acts of harassment from a co-worker, Jim Leonard. Leonard slapped Smith on the rear one day, grabbed Smith’s rear very hard a few days later, and, some time later, came up behind Smith, grabbed his hips, and began basically engaging in a simulated humping session. The cumulative effect of Leonard’s conduct was so severe that Smith began suffering anxiety problems and had to take a leave of absence from work.
A district court in Tennessee has permitted some claims in a sexual harassment suit to move forward after one male employee accused a male coworker of inappropriate behavior.
In Smith v. Rock-TENN Services, Inc., Jeffrey Smith worked for Rock-Tenn Services, Inc., a box and packaging materials manufacturer from August 2010 until the end of September 2011. Around the beginning of 2011, Smith claimed that a male coworker, James Leonard, slapped him on the rear during a shift. In accordance with the company’s sexual harassment policy, Smith first informed Leonard that he did not want Leonard touching him. A few days later, Leonard allegedly grabbed Smith “in the crack of his butt,” hard enough that his rear was irritated for two days. This time, Smith grabbed Leonard by the arm and threatened him, but he did not report either incident to a higher authority. However, Leonard was eventually placed on a performance improvement plan for “horseplay sexual harassment” after another employee reported him. Leonard was informed that any further sexual harassment allegations would be grounds for termination.
Nonetheless, in June 2011, Smith claimed that Leonard grabbed him by the hips while he was bent over a machine and thrust his genitals against him. Smith then grabbed Leonard by the throat and held him for roughly 30 seconds before releasing him. Smith then reported the incident to his supervisor, as well as to two other supervisors. One supervisor he informed of all three incidents. After an investigation was done, the supervisors concluded that Leonard should be terminated. However, the general manager, who was unaware of all three of Leonard’s actions toward Smith, disagreed and thought that the evidence was only enough to merit a three-day suspension as a final warning.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against the owner of a well-known Atlanta-area restaurant/nightclub, Taboo 2 Bar and Bistro. The agency has alleged that Sirdah Enterprises, Inc. broke the law by permitting, on an ongoing basis, sexual harassment to take place with respect to its female servers throughout the course of their careers with the company.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is more common than people realize, but it often goes unreported because many victims do not want to risk losing their jobs if they discuss the issue with their employers. According to a report released by the Everyday Sexism Project, both men and women are experiencing workplace harassment on a routine basis. Your Atlanta sexual harassment lawyer will tell you that oftentimes, the victims are blamed for the occurrence of sexual harassment; however, more and more companies and individuals are starting to take such claims and allegations much more seriously.
Whenever an individual is sexually harassed in the workplace, he or she might wonder about the best way to handle the situation. Sexual harassment is a problem not only for women, but for men as well. Thousands of charges related to sexual harassment are filed by both genders with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on a yearly basis. But what many victims of harassment don’t know is that there may be instances in which their employers can be held legally responsible for the harassment.
On Tuesday, June 5, 2012, Mays & Kerr scored a decisive victory for Seven Oaks Academy of Lilburn, Georgia, successfully defending the small daycare against a former employee’s appeal of the District Court’s Order dismissing her lawsuit. The plaintiff’s claims, which grew out of allegations of religious discrimination, included religious harassment, hostile work environment, civil conspiracy, and negligent hiring and retention, and sought the statutory maximums in compensatory and punitive damages.