Philadelphia Employment Law News

One Touch too Much: EEOC Wins $350k for Sexual Harassment Victims

Going to our jobs is usually painful enough for most of us. There is no need to add on problems once you're already there. Unfortunately, these things happen. What is good is that when it gets nasty, you can bring your problems to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and have them heard.

In this case, the EEOC won in a jury trial for sexual harassment. The CEO and CFO of Endoscopic Microsurgery Associates in Baltimore had been subjecting their employees to unwanted sexual advances and eventually fired the employees for rejecting the advances, according to the EEOC. Before firing the women, the medical practice retaliated against them by rescinding approved leave and applying unwarranted discipline.

Sexual harassment is defined by the EEOC as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with your job. There are two ways that sexual harassment can be classified under Title VII, the employment discrimination law.

One way is quid pro quo, or this for that, which means that a supervisor (usually) requires submission to sexual advances, etc. in order to get or keep a job, or to get a promotion. A single action is all that is needed to support a sexual harassment claim.

The other type of harassment is through the creation of a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment exists when there is unwelcome conduct that is based on sex and it is severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive or offensive working environment.

Courts look at elements including type of conduct, frequency of the conduct, who was responsible for the conduct, and if the harassment was against one or multiple employees, to determine whether there was a hostile work environment.

Here, it seems like the jury could have awarded damages on either type of claim. The continued sexual advances after multiple refusals could create a hostile work environment. Even more, the discipline, rescinding of leave, and termination are clear quid pro quo elements.

Therefore, it is clear why the EEOC won a sexual harassment jury award of $110,000 in punitive damages for each employee. So remember, if you are facing sexual harassment or discrimination at work, contact the EEOC or an attorney.

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