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Federal sex discrimination case: Male's right to wear jewelry at work

In a sexual harassment related case, a federal court in Alabama has permitted a male's sex-bias claim to proceed against a women's accessories company, Charming Charlie, after the company's manager made sexist and sexually harassing comments about men during the hiring process. Thereafter, the company offered the prospective employee a position but failed to give him a start date. The case is Owen v. Charming Charlie, No. 13-S-1009-S, 2013 WL 3968658 (N.D. Ala. July 31, 2013). According to the plaintiff employee, Courtney Owen, a male plaintiff, applied for a retail position at a Charming Charlie store. The manager of the store called him and offered a job interview. During the interview, the manager told Owen that she rarely hires males. Owen claims she further stated that men typically "don't like" the company's policy requiring all sales associates to wear six accessories while working." Owen claims he replied that he had no problem with the six accessory requirement, whereupon the hiring manager stated again that men typically do not like and "can't do" the dress code. She then told Owen that she "might be willing" to hire his on a temporary basis, and that if he followed the dress code, he "might" be hired on a permanent basis. The company sent Owen an offer letter the next day, together with the hiring documents. Owen completed the documents as requested and received a telephone message to join the "set-up team" to prepare for the grand opening of a new store. Owen attempted several times to follow up, but never heard back from the company. Owen then complained for sex discrimination/sexual harassment with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for having been denied employment on the basis of sex. Owen alleged in his complaint that "the accessories requirement and other policies have a disparate impact on male applicants and employees and intentionally discriminate against male applicants and employees, without sufficient business justification, and [defendant] knows this. In addition to its policies having a disparate impact and weeding out male applicants, respondent engages in a pattern and practice of intentional discrimination against males in the hiring process and in the terms and conditions of employment of any males who are hired and uses its accessories policy as a pretext for intentional discrimination in hiring and in other terms and conditions of employment."

Weak Sexual Harassment Claim May Still Support Retaliation Claim

Sexual harassment lawsuits against employers require the employee victim to show that the sexual misconduct was so severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of employment and thereby created a hostile work environment.  A stray remark here or there is usually not enough to sustain a case. It is not enough that the employee herself be offended by the remarks. Rather, it must also be shown that a "reasonable person" would find the work environment to be "hostile or abusive." 

Details of san diego mayor's sexual harassment emerge

Details of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner 's sexual harassment of women have now emerged. These include the forcible kissing of two constituents and grabbing the buttocks and breast of a staff member. In a City Hall elevator, Filner told a female staffer that women employees would do better "if they worked without their panties on." It has been reported that Filner's behavior toward women was so egregious and despicable that women who worked for him called him a "dirty old man" and coined the phrases "the Filner headlock" and "the Filner dance" to describe how he isolates women and then makes unwanted advances.

Sexual Harassment: Quid pro quo vs. hostile work environment

There are two main types of workplace sexual harassment.  The first is quid pro quo.  The second is a hostile work environment.

San Diego Mayor Guilty of Sexual Harassment

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner admitted Thursday "that I need help" in response to several sexual harassment complaints against him.  Despite calls for his resignaton, Filner did not say he would resign.  He apologized for his treatment of women and vowed to change his behavior.  "I'm clearly doing something wrong," he said.

Eggshell Skull Plaintiffs and Sexual Harassment

There is term in the law called "eggshell skull" plaintiff. This refers to a doctrine in tort (i.e. injury) law where the injured person (called the plaintiff in a lawsuit) is unusually susceptible to injury and therefore suffers more than a so-called "normal" plaintiff.  The eggshell skull doctrine does not only apply to physical injuries, but applies to emotional and psychological injuries as often found in sexual harassment cases.

Coping with sexual harassment at work

There are several things victims of workplace sexual harassment can do to deal with the situation. 

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