Posted On: March 31, 2011

South Basin Packing Pays $80,000 To Settle ADA Discrimination Lawsuit

South Basin Packing will pay $80,000 to settle an Americans With Disabiliy Act ("ADA") discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to published accounts South Basin fired a worker immediately after he informed the company of his recent diagnosis for a chronic medical condition. This is a violation of the ADA because employers by law are required to make reasonable accommodations for an employee disability.

In Illinois my office is seeing an increase in the number of ADA claims filed by employees. Of course I am seeing an increase in all types of employment discrimination lawsuits. It seems that employers are forgetting about how to properly treat employees and they are disregarding the law. There could also be a claim for retaliation if the employee is terminated for complaining about an ADA related issue.

EEOC atorney William R. Tamayo said, “This settlement should emphasize to employers that hiring and firing decisions must be based on facts -- whether or not an applicant or employee has the ability to do the job -- and not fears concerning disability.”

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Posted On: March 30, 2011

Tandy Brands Pays $95,000 To Settle Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Tandy Brands ("Tandy") pay $95,000 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Merta Withrow. According to published reports regarding the case, Tandy violated federal law by terminating Merta Withrow, a 62-year-old manager, because of her age. The company claimed the termination was part of a reduction-in-force but the company kept a lesser qualified and substantially younger manager.

However, during the discovery phase of the lawsuit the EEOC determined that within four months Tandy terminated another five supervisors, whose ages ranged from 75 to 58. If you are over the age of 40 you are protected by federal law regarding discrimination based on your age. The theory the EEOC alleged was that Tandy wanted a younger image and that is why they began to terminate older workers. This settlement should signal to Tandy that they can't behave this way.

EEOC Attorney Jim Sacher said “Making employment decisions based on one’s age is unlawful, and there is no excuse for such a practice in the 21 st century.”

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Posted On: March 29, 2011

International Profit Associates Pays $8 Million To Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

International Profit Associates pays $8 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit that involves 82 female employees. The lawsuit was filed against the Buffalo Grove Illinois company by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of the women. You can see how long these cases can take as this case was filed 10 years ago.

The main allegations against the company were that women were regularly propositioned for sex, offered job benefits contingent on the performance of sexual acts and offered money for sex. In some cases women were given negative job performances if they did not go along with the requests for sex which is retaliation. More than 40 women reported being sexually assaulted consisting of everything from attempted rape to slapping

“This is, by far, the most egregious sexual harassment that our Chicago office has ever seen,” said EEOC attorney Diane Smason

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Posted On: March 28, 2011

Lanlord Sued For Sexual Harassment

Rawland Leon Sorensen, the owner and manager of more than 50 residential rental properties in Bakersfield is being sued for sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act. In Illinois a landlord could also be sued for sexual harassment under the Illinois Human Rights Act and specifically under the public accomodation provision. The claim would be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

According to published reports the victim alleges Sorensen sexually harassed female tenants by making unwelcome sexual comments. Some of the details include Sorensen exposing his genitals to female tenants. Sorensen would allegedly take adverse actions against women who refused his sexual advances. So another words he would engage in retaliation if a women did not obey him.

“No person should have to fear sexual harassment from a landlord who holds a key to their home.” said attorney Thomas E. Perez

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Posted On: March 27, 2011

Sexual Harassmant Lawsuit Involving A Judge Settles For $375,000

Former court reporter Kimberly Lee receives $150,000, and former court secretary Sharon McGuyer receives $75,000, with an additional $150,000 going to legal fees in a settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit involving Williamson County judge Don Higginbotham. According to published accounts the Judge told one woman he could not see around her butt. In another instance he was using profanity toward the women. The total payout to the country was $375,000. You can see how much a sexual harassment lawsuit can cost an employer.

This case illustrates that even powerful people like Judge's aren't above the law and can be held accountable. I am glad these two women were strong enough to stand up to the Judge and not just let this case get swept under the rug. As for the Judge, he retired but apparently still comes to the courthouse as a visiting Judge--not sure how wise that is given his past track record and the cost to the county because of him.

Judge Higginbotham said "come here, that he needed help going to the bathroom because it was too heavy for him to hold it up [referring to his penis] because he has a bad back."

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Posted On: March 26, 2011

Former Canton-Potsdam Hospital Nurse Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

A former nurse, Theresa Vine,settled her sexual harassment lawsuit against Canton-Potsdam Hospital and psychiatrist Ramon E. Ravelo. According to details which have been published,
Vine, worked as Dr. Ravelo's case manager in the hospital's psychiatric clinic however things began to good very bad for her. She alleged that she was repeatedly threatened and verbally abused while working for Dr. Ravelo.

Additional allegations in the lawsuit include the hospital becoming aware of how Dr. Ravelo treated other females in an unprofessional manner. In once instance the hospital moved one woman to another department after she complained about him. Dr. Ravelo would also loose his temper to the point where he would hit walls and caused a mirror to crash to the floor and fall to pieces. This guy sounds nuts! I am glad to see the case settled and Vine can move on with her life.

"When Theresa Vine approached Dr. Ravelo with work-related questions, he would become enraged," "He would yell at her, belittle her and mock her. Day by day, the level of Dr. Ravelo's anger and abuse escalated." According to the lawsuit

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Posted On: March 25, 2011

Country Inn Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $85,000

Country Inn pays $85,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Candace Bland and other female employees. According to published accounts Bland who worked as a housekeeper, and other female staff members employed in the kitchen were subjected to sexual harassment by male employees. A very troubling piece of evidence was that two of the females that were sexually harassed were 18-year-old high school students.

Details of the sexual harassment included male employees requesting the women go out on dates and the use of sexually explicit language. Additionally the males engaged in offensive and unwelcome touching and groping of the female employees. In the most bizarre allegation, a female claims the male exposed himself to her while she was working. Bland complained to the owner and management, but the employer failed to stop the sexual harassment and instead unlawfully reduced the working hours of women who had complained to punish them. This is referred to as retaliation and is the basis for the second charge.

“Sexual harassment of employees in the hospitality industry continues to be a serious problem,” said EEOC attorney Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.

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Posted On: March 24, 2011

DiMare Ruskin Farms Subjecting Women To Sexual Harassment

DiMare Ruskin, Inc. had a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") claiming the company subjected an entire class of females to sexual harassment and then retaliation, when they complained about it. According to published accounts, father-and-son supervisors at the DiMare tomato facility subjected female employees to severe sexual harassment. Any sexual harassment is horrible but some instances are more aggregious than others and in this case the alleged sexual harassment was on the high end of the scale.

The sexual harassment included physical contact such as groping and forcibly attempting to kiss the female employees. It seems as though the father-and-son team thought they could do anything to these females and no one could hold them responsible. There was also verbal harassment, which included the usual vulgar sexual comments. When the females decided to complain the father-and-son supervisors engaged in retaliation. Retaliation takes place when a negative job action results from a complaint of discriminatory conduct.

“It is crucial that the EEOC continue its efforts to eradicate sexual harassment and all other types of discrimination from the workplace whether it occurs in an office, a factory, at a construction site or in agricultural fields.” said EEOC attorney Robert Weisberg

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Posted On: March 23, 2011

Former Grayville Illinois Mayor Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $17,500

Former Grayville Illinois Mayor Henry S. Kijonka paid $17,500 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit involving former city employee Shelly Osborne. The city ended up paying the settlement amount which is common in these types of cases. According to published accounts Osborne alleged that on a number of occasions Kijonka came up behind her and kissed her on the neck, massaged her shoulders and reached his hands down the front of her sweater.

A problem that can arise in a case like this is witnesses. Many times the person doing the harassment will do it one-on-one and there won't be anyone to witness what took place. I suspect because of the low settlement amount, that is what happened here. I am glad to see Osborne file a complaint and hold the Mayor accountable. Hopefully, the city puts in place a sexual harassment policy and better supervises its' employees.

Continue reading " Former Grayville Illinois Mayor Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $17,500 " »

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Posted On: March 22, 2011

Wild Beaver Saloon Sued For Pregnancy Discrimination

The Wild Beaver Saloon is being sued for pregnancy discrimination because it unlawfully fired a female bartender/server because of her pregnancy. The lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") after settlement talks broke down. Employers have to be mindful that once an employee gets pregnant, she just can't be fired for that reason. I am glad this female did not just go along with the program and instead filed a complaint with the EEOC.

In a case like this it is not uncommon to seek compensatory and punitive damages as well as a permanent injunction to prevent the company from engaging in any employment practice that discriminates against any employee. Over 90% of cases end up settling prior to trial so there is a good chance this case will settle as well. Many times along with filing a complaint of pregnancy discrimination there will be corresponding complaints of gender discrimination and retaliation.

“Employees who become pregnant should not lose their jobs because of their condition,” said EEOC attorney Laurie A. Young

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Posted On: March 21, 2011

Paramedic Loses Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Kristina Frederick a former paramedic lost her sexual harassment lawsuit when a jury ruled against her. Prior to filing a sexual harassment lawsuit, she had to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Frederick alleged she was sexually harassed by her boss while working for Oldham Emergency Medical Services.

Frederick testified that director Lance Vincent propositioned her for sex while she worked for the department and asked about her sexual preferences. In probably the most damning evidence she said she had intercourse with Vincent. Frederick claims she was given a full-time job that had opened up after having sex with Vincent and says that is why she had sex with him. The lesson here is that if you go to a jury trial and admit you had sex with the boss--it is going to be hard to win. I hope she is able to move on with her life.

"The truth is, she had sex with him because she wanted to,” the other attorney said to the jury.

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Posted On: March 20, 2011

John Muir Health Pays $340,000 To Settle ADA Lawsuit

John Muir Health pays $340,000 to settle an Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") lawsuit which was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of eight workers. According to published reports John Muir withdrew job offers to seven nurses and one lab technician based on workplace restrictions that were put in place by independent doctors contracted by John Muir to conduct pre-employment health screenings. You can see how much money it cost the company because they put these poor policies in place.

The problem was that John Muir assumed the eight workers had life-threatening latex allergies and could not safely work in a hospital setting. The workers did not take the news laying down and instead some of the workers were independently evaluated by board-certified allergists, who concluded that they did not have an allergy or sensitivity that would preclude them from working safely in hospital settings. And all of the non-hired workers continued to work in the health care profession.

“The Americans With Disabilities Act requires all employers to ensure that job candidates are not excluded based on a disability or perceived disability". said EEOC attorney Michael Baldonado

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Posted On: March 19, 2011

Brentwood Fire District Settles Age Discrimination Lawsuit For $465,600

The Brentwood, Long Island Fire District pays $465,600 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of a class of firefighters. According to published accounts between 1990 and 2004, the District prohibited volunteer firefighters over age 62 from accruing credit toward a length of service award because of their age.

The end result was that the senior firefighters kept working but did not receive credit for their service once they reaced 62. The lawsuit claims the age restriction violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). You can see how much money this bad policy costs the taxpayers and hopefully the government will get it right next time. You cannot be discriminated against because of your age and the government can't make two policies, one for older workers and one for younger workers.

"The fire department's system penalized older firefighters who continued to actively perform their duties and that was a violation of federal law," said EEOC attorney Adela Santos.

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Posted On: March 17, 2011

Belk Pays $55,000 To Settle a Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

Belk, Inc.pays $55,000 to settle a religious discrimin­ation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Myra Jones-Abid. According to published reports Belk failed to accommodate Jones-Abid's religious beliefs and then fired her because of her religion. The problem started when Belk required Jones-Abid to wear a Santa hat and apron as part of the stores attempt to make store look holiday friendly. Jones-Abid’s religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses, prohibits her from recognizing holidays, and therefore she declined to wear the holiday garb.

Belk terminated Jones-Abid for refusing to wear the apparel. It would not have been too large a burden on the company to allow her to not wear the Santa hat and apron. The company must respect a person's religious beliefs and there was not a legitimate reason for the company to act the way it did. Hopefully in the future, the company will change its policy.

"No employee should be forced to choose between her faith and her job,” said EEOC attorney Lynette A. Barnes.

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Posted On: March 16, 2011

School District Pays $35,000 To Girl In Sexual Orientation Case

Constance McMillen wanted to attend her high school prom with her girlfriend but the school district did not want her to. In the end McMillen received a $35,000 settlement from her Mississippi school district and more importantly the district added sexual orientation and gender identity to the district's anti-discrimination policy. This is a classic example of basic discrimination.

This is also an example of how a school district does not think about the issues in a logical manner and instead acts hastily. In the end the district ends up ruining the girls prom, paying her money (that could have gone to better educating kids) and they have to revise their own anti-discrimination policy. So what was the point of not letting her go to the prom? I was happy to see McMillen stand up for herself and not let the mindless morons in charge push her around.

''Our senior year is supposed to be the best part of our high school career. I'm never going to get my senior year back." McMillen said

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Posted On: March 15, 2011

Indiana Health Center Pays $45,000 To Settle Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

Indiana Health Center pays $45,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to published accounts a female dental hygienist was fired because of her pregnancy and because she was scheduled to go on leave within days of her termination. This also became a case involving gender because men were treated different and therefore she suffered gender discrimination.

With a tight job market, more employers believe they can discard employees who are pregnant and just hire someone else. This case should set an example to employers that if they treat pregnant women different than other employees they may have to pay the price. This is a good illustration of what happens when you discriminate against an employee.

“Pregnancy discrimination continues to rise at an alarming rate,” said EEOC Attorney Laurie Young.

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Posted On: March 14, 2011

Text Messages Help Sexual Harsassment Case

There is good news for those who are victims of sexual harassment and their bosses is doing some of the harassing via the cell phone. Even deleted text messages can be retrieved and used in court. Text messages provide solid evidence and make it hard to deny what is being said. Americans sent 173 billion texts monthly last year, up from 7 billion a month in 2005, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association. It is now common for all levels of employees in corporations to utilize text messaging as a legitimate form of communications.

If you are receiving text messages which you believe are sexual in nature or an attempt to start an inappropriate relationship, you should save them and print them out. You should also contact an employment attorney so you can maximize the affectiveness of the messages and plan a strategy. Many times employees who come forward with claims of sexual harassment end up getting terminated or are otherwise the victims of retaliation.

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Posted On: March 13, 2011

Chiropractor Has Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Him By Two Former Employees

Chiropractor Paul Basile had a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by two former employees. According to the lawsuit Chrisine Gensey and Rosangela Doyle claim he groped them, made sexually suggestive comments and retaliated after they complained. Basile made remarks about Doyle's figure and placed his crotch against her hand when he was giving her a chiropractic adjustment.

According to published accounts both women complained about the sexual harassment but since he was the boss and owner the complaints fell on deaf ears. The lawsuit also has a count for retaliation but from the documents it is unclear what the retaliation is. The complaint does say the sexual harassment created a hostile work environment and the women's careers were negatively impacted and they both ended up losing money.

The lawsuit alleges Basile asked Doyle "where her remote control for her underwear was."

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Posted On: March 12, 2011

University of Cincinnati Sued For Sexual Harassment

Sandra Smith filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati ("UC"). Smith was fired last year and was the former Executive Director to The President. Smith is not just suing he University, she is also suing two of its top officials alleging sexual harassment, retaliation and a hostile work environment. According to published accounts, Smith claims UC Executive Vice President Fred Reynolds hugged and kissed her, and made unwanted advances toward her in the office.

Smith first filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") which is required prior to filing a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court. Smith says Reynolds tried to make her look crazy and blamed her allegations of sexual harassment on a "distorted mind" from medication after back surgery. Smith alleges she complained to UC President Greg Williams about the sexual harassment and creation of a hostile work environment but he did not take her allegations seriously. What he did do is give her a negative performance review and fired her.

The University issued a statement which said " We will defend ourselves vigorously in court."

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Posted On: March 11, 2011

Tips For Victims of Sexual Harassment

My office gets many calls from employees who are the victim of sexual harassment. In many cases the harassor will make comments in a private setting or on the telephone. In Illinois it is illegal to record a telephone conversation without the consent of both parties. It is not illegal however to have the other party leave a vocie message--because they are consenting by leaving the voice message. One piece of advice I tell employees is to ask the person doing the sexual harassment to leave them a voice mail. You can say something like call my cell and tell me what you wish to do and I can review it when I get home. All you are really doing is asking the harassor to put his comments in a medium in which you can save it and then use it to help prove your case.

Another tip is to go back to your desk and memorialize the conversation with the harassor and ask him what he meant because what he said to you was unclear and you were suprised by it. If he doesn't deny the content of the email, that can be utilized at trial and also he may respond with an affirmative statement or he may clarify what he said in an email to such a degree that it helps the case. The important point is to try and get the "private" conversation in a form that can be utilized as evidence to help prove your sexual harassment case.

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Posted On: March 10, 2011

Sexual Harassment By College Professor

It seems that these days going to college will get a female student more than an education. Recently Central Connecticut State University's former chief diversity officer Moises Salinas pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting one of his students. In Illinois if a student has this happen they can file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

According to published accounts, Salinas put his tongue down the throat of student Krystal Rich, now 23 and also he grabbed her crotch while he was trying to kiss her. It is amazing that these types of people are hired by colleges.

Judge Strackbein told Salinas that when parents send their children to college, they reasonably expect that professors will not abuse their authority or position and try to take advantage of students.

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Posted On: March 9, 2011

Underreported Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Last year the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC dropped to the lowest it has been in nearly two decades. In 2010, the EEOC reports having only 11,717 new cases, nearly as low as it was in1993, and down from a high of almost 16,000 cases in 1997.

One hopes that that this change marks a healthy shift in our workplace culture, that sexual harassment simply happens less now than it did last year. Certainly efforts to educate employers and well-publicized harassment cases have made a positive impact in some employment settings. The decrease in reported cases, however, does not mean that sexual harassment is actually occurring less. It only means that there are fewer reported cases.

Ms. Ziaja regularly writes about law and policy developments for LegalMatch.

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Posted On: March 8, 2011

Gala AZ Holdings Inc. Sued For Sexual Harassment

A fast food restaurant has been charged with sexual harassment and retaliation. According to published accounts, Gala AZ Holdings, Inc. subjected a female employee to sexual harassment and retaliation according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Andriana Lopez was employed by the restaurant and allegedly she was sexually harassed by an assistant manager. The sexual harassment consisted of the assistant manager fondling himself in her presence, grabbing her buttocks, and attempting to grab her breasts.

Lopez complained to her managers but not only was nothing done to stop the sexual harassment but remarkabely she was suspended and then fired in retaliation for her complaint. This type of behavior seems to be increasing and some employers just don't seem to understand how important it is to properly address a sexual harassment complaint. In this instance, the woman was subjected to a hostile work environment and the company just made things worse.

“Employers who subject people to harassment based on sex are violating federal law,” said EEOC attorney Mary Jo O’Neill, "We have seen an alarming increase in retaliation charges, and we are very concerned that employees know that they can report discrimination without repercussions.”

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Posted On: March 7, 2011

Television Station Settles Age and Gender Discrimination Lawsuit For $45,000

KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City will pay $45,000 to settle a racial discrimination and gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Phyllis Williams. According to published accounts, Williams, a veteran African-American anchor was paid lower wages than comparable white female reporters and male reporters of all races. Williams was also subjected to unequal terms and conditions of employment.

Usually it is difficult to prove racial discrimination because people don't just come out and make racial comments. Instead, you need evidence that shows an unequal treatment and pay difference that can only be explained by a difference in race or gender. I am glad Ms. Williams hung in there and fought for her rights.

“This decree will remind KOKH Channel 25, Sinclair and all news organizations to treat their employees equally as required by law, including women and people of color, who traditionally have been the victims of job discrimination,” said Barbara Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Oklahoma. “The notice posting and training required by the consent decree will go far in educating the station’s managers on their employees’ right to work in an environment free of race and sex discrimination.”

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Posted On: March 6, 2011

Brand Energy Pays $110,000 To Settle Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

Brand Energy & Infrastructure Services, Inc. ("Brand") pays $110,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit which was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of former employee, Jauronice Hayes. According to published accounts Hayes worked for Brand at its Conoco Phillips facility and was sexually harassed by her male supervisor. Some of the sexual harassment included inappropriate sexual statements, requests and demands for sexual favors, and sexual touching.

And probably the most revealing testimony was that the supervisor exposed his genitals to Hayes and informed Hayes that if she did not have sex with him, she would be laid off. Threats for sex are not only illegal but forms of sexual harassment and retaliation. In this case Hayes anonymously complained about the sexual harassment to a company hotline and also repeatedly opposed the sexual harassment and rejected her supervisor’s sexual advances.

“I just wanted to do my job and be left alone,” said Hayes. “My boss touching my body and trying to pressure me to have sex with him really hurt me. No woman should have to choose between putting up with this kind of abuse or losing her job and not being able to support her family."

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Posted On: March 5, 2011

Jury Awards $1.5 Million in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Mid-American Specialties

Mid-American Specialties must pay $1.5 million after a jury found they violated federal law in the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to published accounts Mid- American had two managers who subjected three female employees to severe sexual harassment. The sexual harassment consisted of forcing one woman to place her hands on his penis area. Another example was senior managers would make the females become part of what they called the smooching club in order to receive sales leads.

The females rejected these advances and as a result two females were fired which constitutes retaliation. To make matters worse Mid-American had no sexual harassment policy, no training on sexual harassment, and no reporting procedures in place during this time. In what might have been the most remarkable testimony at trial, senior people from the company testified that they did not think that sexual harassment policies and procedures were necessary, so the complaints by the women were not taken seriously. The human resources manager testified that she did not even know the definition of sexual harassment at the time of the events.

"This jury verdict sends the strongest possible message to employers that sexual harassment and retaliation should never be tolerated in the work place,” said EEOC attorney Faye A. Williams

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