- Based upon the scenario below, does the employee have a legally viable claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment and/or hostile environment sexual harassment? What is the likely outcome?
- Analyze the legal factors for the potential claim(s) in the context of the employee pursuing legal action against the employer.
- Let's shift gears. Using the same scenario, assume that you are in the HR Department of your organization, and that you were just presented with the scenario as an example used to explore policies and procedures that will avoid sexual harassment liability. Your boss has asked you to make preliminary suggestions (which will be presented to the legal counsel) regarding sexual harassment protocol that will avoid potential liability. What would your top five suggestions be and why?
Britney: My name is Britney Murphy and I was referred to your law office by my good friend Michelle. I wanted to consult with you about things that have been taking place at my job where I work as an executive secretary.
Lawyer: Nice to meet you Britney, why don't you tell me what has been taking place and we'll go from there? I will interject if I have any questions as you explain what has been taking place. Be sure to start from the beginning and to tell me everything that has taken place to give rise to your concern.
Britney: Sounds good, here we go: I was hired by a company call Personal Connections 'R' Us, Inc. as a receptionist in February 2002. My immediate supervisor was Duane Miller. Duane was in charge of all support staff. Because I answered calls for all 20 employees, I was constantly interacting with everyone on a regular basis. There was no formal dress code so I was able to wear whatever I wanted to work. I typically wore jeans, sandals, and tank tops. In my work area I had photos of myself and my boyfriend in our bathing suits from one of our vacations. I also had other pictures of my friends and family. One of the other employees Robert Singer would constantly stand in my work area and stare at the photos. It seemed that he was staring at the photo of me in the bathing suit. Twice he made comments about my chest that made me really uncomfortable.
Lawyer: Do you recall specifically what he said to you?
Britney: Not exactly, but he said something like your BEEP are amazing, I would love to see you in even less than what you are wearing in that photo. I laughed at that moment but then went in to the restroom and threw up because the comment made me so sick. The next time he made a similar comment I told him to stop because it made me very uncomfortable. In early 2006 I was looking for my picture, the one of me in my bathing suit. It was missing for a day. It appeared the next day back in my work area. I thought nothing of it at the time, then when I walked by Robert's computer I saw that my photo of me in my bathing suit was loaded as a screen saver on his computer. When I went into his computer, I found a file with my name on it. In that file he had computer altered my photo and the upper part of my body was exposed. I could not function. I called Robert a pig and told him to stay away from me. Robert in turn complained to Duane that I was not timely giving him his messages, which was totally untrue. I told some of my coworkers what I saw on Roberts's computer and the things he was saying to me but I was afraid to tell my supervisor. Finally, after several days of missing work because I was so upset about what Robert was doing, I finally told my supervisor.
Lawyer: When was that? Who did you tell and what did the conversation consist of?
Britney: Things get really interesting here. It was about two weeks after I saw the photo on Robert's computer that I went in to talk to Duane Miller, my supervisor. I told Duane everything that I told you. Duane did not react in any other way than to say "oh no, he is not up to the same stuff again, I cannot believe he has not learned his lesson". Although Duane told me that he would take care of it, nothing happened to Robert. He is still working there and is still making comments that make me uncomfortable. He did take the screen saver off his computer. I do not know if the file is still on his computer. I tried to look but there is now a password on his computer. I told Duane about two months ago that things had not gotten any better. Duane told me that he could talk more about it on a trip that he wanted me to go on. I never had to travel as part of my work requirements before. I told Duane that I preferred not to travel. Duane told me that I was expected to travel on the trip that was work related and that he and I would be sharing a room. He went on to tell me that he could transfer me to another division of the office which would be a promotion if I would show him my amazing breasts that Robert was making comments about during the trip where we would be sharing a room. I could not believe my ears, I told him "no way". I thought that was the end of it however last week I was demoted to the mail room and my pay was reduced. Things do not seem fair. Is there anything I can do legally?
- Based upon the scenario, does the employee have a legally viable claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment and/or hostile environment sexual harassment? What is the likely outcome?
Yes the employee has sufficient grounds for a sexual harassment claim because she has been sexually harassed by the men she works with. The male employees have made crude comments about her breasts, uploading pictures of her on a computer without her permission, and suggested that for her to move up in the company she would need to go on a trip and stay in the same room with one of the male coworkers while showing her breasts to move up in the company. In addition, she has also been demoted to a lower position within the company for refusing to acquiesce to the sexual harassment by her male employees. This is a shocking case of sexual harassment with concrete evidence of sexual harassment that has presented a hostile work environment as ...
The solution discusses the employment law sexual harassment scenario.