Posted On: February 27, 2009

Retaliation Claims With The EEOC Growing

According to government statistics, in the last ten years the number of retaliation charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") have increased by 33%, while other charges filed with the EEOC have only increased 2.5%. Under federal law (Title VII), retaliation occurs when an employee is fired or has his/her terms and conditions of work changed as a result of making a formal complaint of discrimination. Title VII also protects those individuals who testify, assist or participate in an investigation of illegal activity or those who oppose unlawful employment practices.

In a recent United States Supreme Court case, CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, 128 S. Ct. 1951 (2008), an employee alleged he was terminated for complaining to management that a black co-worker had been fired for racial reasons which amounted to racial discrimination. The Court concluded 7-2 that if this allegation were true it was actionable and that retaliation claims are included under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

The important point in this case is that when filing a Title VII race discrimination charge, always include a retaliation charge as well because even if the race discrimination charge is unsuccessful, the retaliation charge may succeed and if it does, there will not be any caps on the liability to the employer.

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Posted On: February 26, 2009

Clay County Settles Sexual Harassment Case for $208,000

Clay County has agreed to pay $208,000 to an employee, Michele Stryker to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit that named Assessor Cathy Rinehart and a former worker as defendants. In the lawsuit Stryker alleged that Rinehart repeatedly allowed Steve Sutterfield, then an employee, to make sexually suggestive and offensive comments in front of her and other female employees, constituting sexual harassment.The lawsuit also claims Stryker and other women in the office experienced gender discrimination in their compensation, travel arrangements and benefits.

In recent weeks, the county settled a fourth sexual harassment lawsuit for $90,000 involving Rinehart. In that lawsuit, Debbie Burr of Kansas City maintained that there was hostile work environment in the assessor’s office during 2003-2004.


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Posted On: February 25, 2009

Transgendered Woman Sues Burlington Coat Factory For Sexual Harassment

Maya Wicks-Perez, a transgendered woman filed a lawsuit against Burlington Coat Factory’s San Francisco’s branch alleging sexual harassment and discrimination. Wicks-Perez informed the store that she was going to transition back in 2001 and alleges that one of her supervisors had no issue with her transition, but that the senior management told her that it was wrong. That management fostered an atmosphere that was openly hostile and created a hostile work environment.

Wicks-Perez alleges that she was subjected to graphic sexual conversations, co-workers grabbing her body and claims one of her supervisors handed her pornography. Management ignored her complaints and stood passively by while these actions took place according to the complaint.

"It seemed as if their attitude was that it was okay for me to be treated that way because I am a transgender person" Wicks-Perez said

A 2006 study into the issue of transgender discrimination found that roughly a quarter of transpeople have been the victim of sexual harassment, and over half have been victims of other forms of discrimination.

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Posted On: February 24, 2009

Trash Removal Company Pays $475,000 to Settle EEOC Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

Robertson Sanitation, a Phoenix-based trash hauling, recycling and disposal company that operates in Georgia, will pay $475,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

According to the lawsuit, Jeanine Moore applied for a truck driver position with Robertson at its Winder, Georgia facility in August 2005, was never interviewed or hired even though she was more qualified than a number of male applicants who were hired. A review of the job applications at that location between January 2005 and September 2006 showed that some of the men hired were less qualified than Moore, including six males who lacked Robertson's minimum qualifications for the truck driver position. The EEOC's investigation revealed a class of similarly qualified women who, like Moore, were also rejected despite their qualifications.

The consent decree (the term used when the EEOC settles a lawsuit) provides $475,000 in monetary relief to the class of qualified female applicants who were discriminatorily rejected for employment between January 1, 2005 and October 31, 2006. Moore will receive $70,000 in damages, while the remaining funds will be distributed among the other qualified claimants whose eligibility will be determined by a procedure set forth in the decree.

Additionally the company agreed to exercise good faith in offering employment to qualified female applicants for residential, commercial, industrial and roll-off truck driver positions at the Winder and Austell facilities and the company is also required to submit a report each year identifying the name, sex and qualifications of all qualified applicants for truck driver positions, the persons offered positions, and the persons hired.

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Posted On: February 23, 2009

Nurse Awarded $15 Million in Sexual Harassment Case

Janet Bianco, 55, a nurse at New Yorks Flushing Hospital said she suffered prolonged torment at the hands of Dr. Matthew Miller, ending when he sexually assaulted her at Flushing Hospital in 2001. A jury awarded her $15 million after finding that hospital leadership allowed Dr. Miller who had a history of sexual harassment to continuously harass Bianco. This was the largest sexual harassment award ever in New York.

According to the testimony, Dr. Miller forcibly grabbed Bianco at a cardiac unit nursing station and tried to force his tongue down her throat while the hospital's medical director, Dr. Peter Barra, saw the attack but did nothing to intervene or discipline Dr. Miller. The medical directors reluctance to intervene is a form of retaliation. In another instance Dr. Miller chased Bianco through the halls until he cornered her in a room with two heavily sedated patients, where he aggressively groped her below the waist.

"I only hope out of this whole thing that people become aware. I think that people take it lightly when you say sexual harassment. They don't understand how it affects your life, not only in your job, but in your home, with your friends," Bianco said.

Following Miller's attack on Bianco, the misconduct board from the Office of Professional Medical Conduct suspended Millers license for two months and slapped him with another three years' probation. Miller's admitting privileges at Flushing Hospital were also withdrawn.

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Posted On: February 22, 2009

Former Female Police Officer Settles With City On Case Involving Sexual Harassment, Gender Discrimination and Retaliation

Former police Sgt. April Begin, who filed a lawsuit against the city in 2007 in which she alleged her fellow officers made sexual remarks and refused to back her up in dangerous situations because they resented working with a woman was settled with the city of Dearborn. The lawsuit was based on sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation. As part of the settlement she will receive a pension of $57,000 a year for life with full medical benefits, $60,000 in retroactive pension benefits dating to April when she was relieved of her duties without pay, plus $60,000 cash.

The city of Dearborn, which was named as the primary defendant in each of the cases maintained its actions in regards to the officers were lawful and nondiscriminatory but claims it settlemented all three cases because it was in the best interest of the city and police department citing the cost of settling the cases on the terms agreed to by the parties was less than the cost of moving forward with the litigation. Additionally, two of the defenses key witnesses died before trial and that weakened the defense planned by the city.

"It's not sexual that way, like sleep with me or anything like that, it's just that I'm the weakest link because I'm a female kind of thing," Begin said

Continue reading " Former Female Police Officer Settles With City On Case Involving Sexual Harassment, Gender Discrimination and Retaliation " »

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Posted On: February 21, 2009

Update: Firefighters Awarded $34,000 In Sexual Harassment Case

Update from a story appearing in this Blog on February 3. San Diego firefighters John Ghiotto, Chad Allison, Jason Hewitt and Alexander Kane who were ordered by their supervisor to appear in the city's 2007 homosexual "Pride Parade" were awarded $34,000 total for emotional damages from the event, where they were sexually harassed.

The men were sexually harassed through lewd cat calls and obscene gestures at the event, which was replete with sexual displays and graphic images. After complaining to superiors the men suffered from retaliation. In once instance the men were told if they did not march in the parade they would be disciplined according to the World Net Daily.

According to the men,

"While moving down the parade route we were subjected to verbal abuse, (show me your hose, you can put out my fire, give me mouth to mouth, flick you fireman) sexual gestures, (showing their penis, blowing kisses, grabbing their crotch, rubbing their nipples, tongue gestures, flipping us off)."

Continue reading " Update: Firefighters Awarded $34,000 In Sexual Harassment Case " »

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Posted On: February 20, 2009

Flight Attendant Loses Sexual Harassment Case

According to the lawsuit Captain Ed Murray, 63, sent an explicit text to 29-year-old Rachel Quinn after they travelled together on a business trip. Quinn said she was reading a book in her hotel when she received the message in which Murray said:

"I cannot wait for you to go down on me."
Murray denied making the comment, insisting he never spent time with Quinn while they were working together.

Quinn said she was unfairly fired from her job with the private charter jet company Gama and that she had been a victim of sexual harassment and retaliation. Tribunal chairman Keith Bryant rejected both of Quinn's claims saying the court could not consider the sexual harassment claim because it had been made more than three months after the alleged incidents.

This was a United Kingdom case, in Illinois an employee has 180 days to file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights or 300 days to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As you can see from the case above, waiting too long can be fatal to a good case.

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Posted On: February 19, 2009

Are You Losing Good Employees Because of Sexual Harassment?

Women who encounter workplace sexual harassment tend to leave the organization according to research student Chana Levi and Professor Eran Vigoda-Gadot of the University of Haifa. The two surveyed 192 women who work in the public sector to observe whether women who were sexually harassed would tend to leave their place of work, develop behaviors of work neglect or attempt to change the situation by means of taking particular action.

Other findings include one-third of the women reported having experienced gender harassment at medium or high frequency and almost 90 percent of the women never experienced repeated attempts at sexual relations or seldom experienced it.

The study also found that very few of the women reported incidents of sexual harassment at work.

For the purpose of the study sexual harassment was defined as offensive sexually suggestive comments, repeated harassment intended to lead to sexual relations and actual sexual coercion.

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Posted On: February 18, 2009

Car Dealership Pays $244,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

Murphy Ford Inc, a car dealership located in Chester, Pennsylvania, will pay $244,000 to settle a Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC alleges that Murphy Ford sexually harassed three female employees and fired one woman for complaining about the unlawful harassment--which constituted retaliation.

According to the lawsuit which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the dealership's service manager sexually harassed Cynthia Bell and other female employees in the service department which included sexually explicit comments, references to oral sex and grabbing his private parts in their presence. Bell repeatedly made complaints to the owner and dealership management, however, Murphy Ford did nothing to stop the harassment and retaliated against Bell by suddenly firing her.

According to Debra Lawrence according regional EEOC attorney:

"This case should remind employers that they have an obligation to take prompt and effective measures to stop harassment in the workplace. If the employer instead does the wrong thing and terminates an employee who complains about harassment, then the EEOC will take action."


Continue reading " Car Dealership Pays $244,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit " »

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Posted On: February 17, 2009

Movie Company Settles EEOC Case For $75,000

Two movie-production companies, Los Angeles-based Mandate Pictures and Chicago-based Crick Pictures, agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a pregnancy-discrimination lawsuit filed by the Chicago regional office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to the lawsuit both companies refused to hire Cynthia Castillo-Hill for a position as a casting assistant after learning she was pregnant.

Castillo-Hill produced an e-mail from the hiring supervisor which showed that the two companies believed that Castillo-Hill's pregnancy would prevent her from being able to handle the stress and long hours associated with the job. However Castillo-Hill said

"Her own doctor had indicated that the job was appropriate."

Along with the payment of $75,000, the two production companies are enjoined under the decree from future pregnancy discrimination, and are required to provide managers with training on how to avoid discrimination. The discrimination occurred in 2005 during production of the 2006 film "Stranger Than Fiction," which starred Will Ferrell and was filmed in part in the Chicago area.

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Posted On: February 16, 2009

The Cost To Defend a Sexual Harassment Claim

Once a sexual harassment complaint is filed, the employer is required to investigate the complaint and file a response--then defend itself or settle. Here is an example of how expensive that process can be for an employer. In Knox County taxpayers have paid out $464,953 to attorneys, insurers, accountants and investigators in the battle over claims and counterclaims based on a sexual harassment complaint filed against State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer.

In this case, three women working under Pepmeyer filed a sexual harassment complaint, Pepmeyer then claimed the former State's attorney Paul Mangieri and former Sheriff Thompson were running sloppy departments and wasting taxpayer monies. Those claims were never substantiated despite the accounting firm of Carpentier, Mitchell & Goddard, being paid $62,000 to conduct audits of Mangieri’s, Thompson’s offices and private investigators William and Robert Albracht being paid $28,000 to investigate Mangieri’s, Thompson’s offices. A prevailing theory is that Pepmeyer is making the claims to divert attention from his sexual harassment case.

What this case really shows is how much money a sexual harassment case can cost. Once a claim is made there may be other claims and counter-claims made and the costs just keep going up. This case isn't even scheduled for trial anytime soon and almost half a million dollars has been spent. According to Galesburg.com, county treasurer Robin Davis said

"None of us are happy with the amount of money being spent but we have an obligation to defend any allegations made against county officials,”

Sometimes settling a sexual harassment claim quickly makes the most sense for all parties.

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Posted On: February 15, 2009

Silicon Valley City Settles Sexual Harassment Case for $300,000

The City of Concord, located in Silicon Valley, California settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by two former female police officers, who alleged they were discriminated against by male police officers. As part of the settlement the city agreed to pay Denise Dale $250,000 in damages, plus $50,000 in workers' compensation. The second woman, Kristyn Thurmond, will not receive any money under the terms of the settlement.

The sexual harassment lawsuit filed in Contra Costa Superior Court alleged that Dale and Thurmond suffered severe and continuous gender-based harassment and encountered a work environment rife with hostility toward female police officers and that they suffered retaliation for reporting the alleged conduct to superiors. Dale and Thurmond quit their jobs at the Concord Police Department as a result of the harassment and retaliation. They both allege in their lawsuit that higher-ranking officers including Brentwood City Councilman Brandon Richey had sexually explicit conversations in front of them, passed them over for choice assignments with the police department and punished them based solely on their gender.

Thurmond said she was accused of being a coward and was told that she was a poor officer.

Thurmond began working for the police department in 2001 and alleges that a Concord officer took an "inordinate and unwelcome personal and romantic interest" in her in 2002, when he was her field training officer, according to the Mercury News. Thurmond moved to a different squad in 2005, and left the police department in 2007.

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Posted On: February 14, 2009

Six Students File a Lawsuit Against East Stroudsburg University for Sexual Harassment

Five former students and a current student at East Stroudsburg University filed a sexual harassment lawsuit claiming the University failed to stop former vice president Isaac W. Sanders from luring students into unwanted sexual encounters including one in his office when he was 'drinking cognac and watching a pornographic video on his television. One student alleges Sanders offered to pay his tuition in return for sex.

The lawsuit also claims the university, president Robert J. Dillman and the board of trustees failed to properly investigate repeated allegations that Sanders was subjecting students to 'sexual harassment and sexual assault. Additional allegations include, Sanders sending a student an e-mail of a picture of a stick figure performing a lewd act with a gas pump, Sanders putting his hand down one of the students pants while driving with him and putting $1,000 in a students account. The lawsuit claims school sexual harassment.

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Posted On: February 13, 2009

Georgia-Pacific Gypsum Workers Gets $75,000 in Sexual Harassment Settlement

Tina Hammer who reportedly endured years of sexual harassment at the Georgia-Pacific Gypsum LLC plant in Fort Dodge Iowas was awarded $75,000 to end her lawsuit. Hammer was subject to repeated lewd remarks and was repeatedly groped.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") sued Georgia-Pacific on March 28, 2007, claiming the company violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by permitting an employee to sexually harass Hammer and by failing to take action to stop the sexual harassment. In addition to paying Hammer $75,000, the company also agreed to give civil rights training to its managers in Fort Dodge and post a notice of the settlement at the Fort Dodge plant so all employees could review it.

''Sexual harassment violates an employee's dignity and makes it difficult for her to do the work that the employer expects of her,''
said John Rowe, director of the federal commission's Chicago District Office

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Posted On: February 11, 2009

Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008

The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") Amendments Act ("Act") of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553, took effect January 1, 2009. Here are some of the changes under this new law:
1. An otherwise substantially limiting impairment which is in remission or episodic may still be covered by the Act;
2. Any person whose impairment has less than a substantial limitation on a major life activity, but who is nonetheless discriminated against by an employer will have redress under the law for all acts of discrimination other than the failure to receive a reasonable accomodation;
3. The courts are instructed to give a broad interpretation to the definition of disability;
4. The courts are prohibited from considering the use of mitigating measures in determining whether an individual has a disability--except contact lenses and eye glasses;
5. An employee who can demonstrate that an impairment substantially limits a major bodily function will now be considered disabled; and
6. In a claim where an employer determines an employee to be disabled, the focus is now on the employers treatment of a person with a disability instead of requiring proof about the perception of the employer.

The new law broadens what is considered a disability to include, epilepsy, cancer, brain damage, hypertension, mental retardation, diabetes, vision impairment, except for contacts and eyes glasses, and depatitis.

Continue reading " Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008 " »

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Posted On: February 10, 2009

UPS Worker Claims Male Supervisor Sexually Harassed Him

Tom Sobocinski a UPS worker since 1986 filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against his supervisor Russell Ford. In his lawsuit, Mr. Sobocinski alleges Mr. Ford engaged in a long pattern of sexual harassment and sexual abuse at the UPS warehouse, and that the misconduct was condoned by Ford's manager, Ronald Draper who was present when Mr. Ford used sexually inappropriate language.

“UPS sends out these policies of zero tolerance of sexual harassment, but it apparently doesn’t apply to everyone,” Mr. Sobocinski said. “If I or any Teamster said what he said, we’d be fired and escorted out of the building.”

According to the lawsuit Mr. Ford repeatedly made sexually inappropriate comments to Sobocinsky and other employees throughout 2004 including when Mr. Ford complimented Mr. Sobocinski’s posterior and crudely proposed a related sexual act, Mr. Sobocinski said. Another time, Mr. Ford rubbed a piece of paper against his posterior and threw it at Mr. Sobocinski, he said. He said his supervisor has repeatedly made sexually suggestive comments to both men and women, has called male employees “faggots” and regularly touched people in a sexual manner according to the Worcester Telegram.

According to Sobocinski, since filing the lawsuit, he’s been retaliated against by UPS. As an example Sobocinski claims when he takes his wife to doctor appointments, he use to be able to take two or three hours off from work, now UPS makes him use an entire day for the same appointment.

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Posted On: February 9, 2009

Former Employee Sues Boss For $400 Million

Janice Worthen-Caldwell the former employee of the Special Touch, a large Brooklyn New York home health care firm, is suing her boss, Steven Ostrovsky, for $400 million, alleging he had sex with her, groped her and otherwise sexually harassed her and most of his female workers over the past 15 years. The last straw Caldwell says was when she rebuffed Ostrovsky's advances, which she said included grabbing her rear at one office party and trying to kiss her at another. The sexual harassment lawsuit had opening statements last week and continues this week.

Ostrovsky's lawyer Richard Reibstein told the court in his opening statement that Caldwell was annoyed because she was shifted to another job in the company after returning from a 13-week medical leave. He also told the jury:

"These allegations of sexual harassment didn't occur, or if they occurred, she is taking some act and blowing it out of proportion to make it sound a lot worse,"

But according to the Daily News a former employee, Desiree Cooper, testified that she began a two-year affair with the married Ostrovsky in 1992 and would perform oral sex on him in his office three times a week. She said:

"He would also give me money to purchase edible underwear, which he enjoyed having me eat off him."

Cooper a native of Guyana said she ended the affair when she learned Ostrovsky was sleeping with other women in the office. Cooper went on to say that she knew many women who quit or were fired after reacting negatively to the sexual harassment. If the women were fired for rebuffing Obstrovsky's sexual advances this would be retaliation.

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Posted On: February 7, 2009

The City of Gainesville Settles EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $75,000

A sexual harassment lawsuit which was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleged that former Gainesville Police Capt. Ray Weaver in August 2007 was sexually harassing an employee of the department has been settled for $75,000. The victim alleged that the "city knew or should have known that there was sexual harassment going on in the police department." The investigation found evidence of several events that had occurred between the employee and Weaver, including inappropriate photos and masturbation in front of the female police officer.

Captain Weaver retired before the investigation was made public. Along with the payment of $75,000, Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan issued an apology to the victim saying:

"I do wish to apologize to the individual who was subjected to this circumstance," Hanrahan said. "I've been communicating about seeking compensation through Capt. Weaver. It was an outrageous and despicable act, and I have confidence that the actions taken by our management at our police department should not ever allow something like this to happen again."

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Posted On: February 6, 2009

Female Shipyard Workers Hostile Work Environment Claim Denied

A female shipyard worker’s allegations of sexual harassment against a supervisor following a single, unwanted encounter did not justify the New Orleans woman’s lawsuit against her employer, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems according to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals upheld U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance, who on April 3 dismissed the female worker’s claim that Northrop Grumman allowed a “hostile work environment.

The female shipyard worker alleged that Barattini “walked up to her until his chest was touching hers, thus ‘chesting up’ to her breasts in a 30-second confrontation,” according to the appellate record. The woman attempted to walk away, toward a narrow passageway of the ship, but the foreman allegedly followed her and the female immediately reported the incident to her supervisor. According to the lawsuit the woman alleged that:

“He forced his way through the door ahead of her, and, in doing so, placed his hand on her stomach and ran his arm around her waist,” the record states. “As he squeezed passed her in the passageway, he allegedly ‘rubbed his pelvic region across her hips and buttocks.’ ”

In 2007, the woman filed suit against Northrop under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, alleging sexual harassment, and seeking lost wages due to disability, continuing emotional distress and other claims. According to the Advocate, the lawsuit stemmed from a single, 90-second encounter on May 10, 2006.

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Posted On: February 5, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Addresses Retaliatory Discharge Claim

The Illinois Supreme Court in Blount v. Stroud addressed the issue of whether or not Illinois courts have jurisdiction to hear claims brought under the Federal Civil Rights Act. In that case the Court held that employees are not required to file a claim with the Illinois Human Rights Commission even if the alleged conduct also violates provisions of the Illinois Human Rights Act. In this case the cause of action was based on retaliation.

Additionally, a claim by a former employee that she was fired for refusing to commit perjury
states a cause of action for retaliatory discharge under Illinois law. The Court went on to say that because a jury found for the plaintiff on a 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim and awarded damages in excess of $3,000,000, the trial court was justified in awarding attorneys’ fees under federal law in the amount of $1,182,832--basing their decision on the fact that the plaintiff prevailed on her claim.

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Posted On: February 4, 2009

Northhampton County Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for almost $80,000

Gidget Mock, who worked as a lab technician in the Northampton county's drunken-driving center settled her sexual harassment lawsuit with the county for almost $80,000, with $39,000 to her and $38,500 to her attorneys. In the lawsuit she alleged several incidents of harassment occurred between 2003 and 2005, including comments about her clothing and groping. This is a form of retaliation, although not the traditional workplace retaliation where a person gets a negative job action for reporting sexual harassment.

Mock alleges in her lawsuit that she was evicted from her home in November 2003 and sheriff's deputies were called to remove her belongings from the property.

While they ransacked Mock's closets and drawers, they reportedly made comments about her lingerie, such as, "Gidget, we never knew you wore thong underwear" and "nice teddies."

After that, Mock's supervisor and two co-workers began directing inappropriate sexual comments or sexual advances toward her and the harassment continued as she found a police nightstick beside a sex toy left by co-workers on the kitchen counter.

As part of the settlement of the sexual harassment lawsuit, Mock agreed to resign and the county does not admit any liability and Mock relinquishes her right to ask for reinstatement to her job. According to lehighvalleynews.com, Mock had no comment about the settlement and County Executive John Stoffa said "I'm happy that it's settled. It's unfortunate it had to get to this point," Stoffa said. "I just wanted to get it off our books."

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Posted On: February 3, 2009

Firefighters Sue City of San Diego For Sexual Harassment

Firefighters John Ghiotto, Jason Hewitt, Alex Kane and Chad Allison were forced to ride a fire engine in the July 2007 gay pride parade near San Diego after a crew that had volunteered pulled out. The firefighers allege that during the parade, they were subjected to catcalls and saw barely clothed men simulate sex acts. They claim the behavior was so bad that at one point they rolled up their windows, put on headphones and stared straight ahead. The firefighters allege this constitutes sexual harassment--the city disagrees.

San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman met with the four fire fighters days after the parade, apologized and said she was working with the firefighters union to develop a parade policy. The four firefighters hired an attorney and filed a complaint with the city hours after meeting with the chief in 2007--that complaint is now being heard in court. This type of sexual harassment is based on a hostile work environment. In short, the fire fighters are claiming that being forced to participate in the gay pride parade and watch men simulate sex acts subjected them to conduct that they shouldn't have to tolerate at work.

Fire Chief Jarman testified. “Potentially, they could have been offended. It could be construed as sexual conduct issues under the city's policy. Not necessarily harassment.

A jury that heard the sexual harassment claim in September couldn't reach a verdict--so this is the second trial. In that trial, the four fire fighters asked for up to $1 million each for emotional distress.

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Posted On: February 2, 2009

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed by White Castle Employee

A former White Castle employee filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that her coworkers made constant comments about her body, especially after management started requiring employees to tuck their shirts in, and made consistent sexual advances toward her, including inviting her to have a threesome. The sexual harassment lawsuit alleges the woman's supervisor overlooked the misbehavior because he was friends with the harassers. When the employee complained to the women who were harassing her, she began to have her hours changed intentionally so they would conflict with her church services.

The woman no longer works for White Castle and is seeking damages for mental anguish, pain and suffering and lost wages. When an employee reports harassment and is punished or otherwise has an adverse job action, it is referred to as retaliation. In Illinois an employee who quits or is terminated has a duty to mitigate her damages. Mitigation refers to finding another job to offset the loss of wages. If an employee is unable to find another job but is seeking employment they will be considered to have mitigated their damages. It is important to keep detailed records of job searches for this reason.

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Posted On: February 1, 2009

United States Supreme Court Allows Parents to Sue School District Over Sexual Harassment of Their Daughter

The Fitzgeralds of Cape Cod filed a lawsuit, based on sexual harassment, against the Barnstable School Committee and former school Supt. Russell Dever in 2002 under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which provides protections under the 14th Amendment's equal protections clause, and the 1972 law known as Title IX, a federal law requiring gender equality in schools. The Fitzgeralds alleged their 5-year-old daughter was sexually harassed by an older student on the school bus for a period of six months--which constitutes school sexual harassment. Additionally, they accused school officials of discriminating against their daughter in the schools response to the alleged incidents.

The United States Supreme Court ruling allows the case to proceed. The Court's decision does not address the facts of the underlying sexual harassment case, only that filing such cases under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 is valid.

According to Stacy Gallagher, director of Children's Cove, a Barnstable-based advocacy center for abused children

"The general feeling is that it doesn't happen in schools and it certainly does, It happens everywhere."

As reported in the Cape Cod Times, Fitzgerald said his daughter, now a middle school student, is relieved after the Supreme Court ruling. "She's extremely happy that there is a court that stood up for her position and affirmed it and affirmed it unanimously."


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