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."
A federal jury awarded $20,251,963 to eight former employees of Four Amigos Travel, Inc. and Top Dog Travel, Inc., a Florida vacation agency with offices in Largo, Orlando and Lake Lauderdale, Fla., who suffered sexual harassment and retaliation. The verdict was announced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently. It was alleged by the EEOC, which filed suit on behalf of the four employees, that travel agency owner R. Schlom and male managers working at Four Amigos / Top Dog's Largo facility subjected female employees to egregious sexual harassment every day. The harassment included unwanted sexual advances, physical touching and repeated propositions for sex (quid pro quo) in a work environment filled with sexual banter, abuse of power and disrespect for women. The company also fired a manager for bringing the victims' complaints forward, according to the suit.
Sexual harassment is a common, but sometimes under-recognized, workplace hazard that affects up to 70 percent of women and 45 percent of men in the workplace according to a noted a sociologist. Most often it involves a harasser creating a "hostile work environment." This occurs when an employee feels intimidated or uncomfortable due to persistent inappropriate sexual remarks and innuendo in the workplace. Harassment can also involve a "quid pro quo" scenario, where sexual favors are demanded in exchange for keeping one's job.
A study has confirmed that childhood sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and sexual harassment often occur in the same victims. (See Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology: A mediational model of posttraumatic stress disorder and physical health outcomes (April 2008)).
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.
While there are many reasons that victims of sexual harassment delay in bringing claims, such as fear, shame or embarassment, it is critical to comply with certain deadlines.
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 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.
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.
There are several things victims of workplace sexual harassment can do to deal with the situation.