Legal

The United Colors of Harassment Claims

By Jon Hyman

Jun. 24, 2014

Let’s take a look at two recent settlements of harassment claims brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

  1. A Tampa, Florida, bank paid $300,000, resulting from a manager’s ongoing harassment of subordinate female employees, which included repeatedly trapping a 20-year-old behind the teller counter with his body, telling a woman she should wear a bathing suit to work, regularly staring at women’s breasts, and frequently caressing and grabbing a female employee.
  2. A Charlotte, North Carolina, security-services company paid $155,000, resulting from two managers’ repeated harassment of subordinate male employees, which included making offensive sexual comments, soliciting nude pictures, asking one to undress in front of him, soliciting sex in exchange for promotions, forcing accompaniment to a gay bar while on duty, touching certain employees’ chest and genitals.
It’s difficult to compare settlements in different cases based on value. They involve different parties, lawyers, judges, and allegations. Yet, it strikes me that if one compares the offensiveness of the misconduct alleged in these two cases, number two seems a whole lot more egregious than number one. Yet, number one paid double. I’ll ignore making the generalization that we, as a society, view same-sex harassment differently than the harassment of women by men, and, instead, conclude that similar cases offer lend to different results, often for arbitrary reasons.

I’ll leave you with the words of Lynette Barnes, EEOC regional attorney, who comments that employers need to halt all workplace sexual harassment:

All workers have the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment. No one should have to put up with sexual comments or touching while they are just trying to make a living. Employers need to halt or prevent it—and the best prevention is training supervisors and managers on how to put a stop to such misconduct as soon as it appears.

I’ll let you decide about which of these two cases she made this observation.
Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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