Posted On: July 31, 2011

Sexual Harassment Cases Create Hostile Work Environment

When a person at work is subjected to sexual harassment, it creates a hostile work environment for all employees. I know you are wondering why all employees would be affected by this. Consider the message this sends to other employees. First, you can be treated this way and management does not care enough to intervene. Second, you could be the next victim. And lastly, you may be not getting the promotion you deserve or you may be getting treated different because of the sexual harassment of another person.

A hostile work environment is very hard on all employees and reduces productivity among other things. I think one of the most important things a company can do is to ensure discriminatory conduct is not taking place at work and to make sure a hostile work environment does not exist. Training of all employees is a must and especially the training of supervisors and management. My chicago office continues to see an increase in the number of cases involving both sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

Posted On: July 30, 2011

Bank Of West Settles Gender Discrimination Lawsuit For $48,000

Bank of the West pays $48,000 to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The lawsuit was filed in a very short period of time after the filing--just five days. Usually when a company settles quickly, they are acknowledging they were wrong and want to put the matter behind them. It is always nice to see a company take responsibility. The company also saved a good deal in attorney fees by settling the gender discrimination lawsuit early.

According to published accounts Bank of the West refused to hire a woman for the position of branch manager of its Quail Creek branch because of her gender-female. Although the managers with hiring authority acknowledged that she was the best-qualified candidate for the job, they claimed they denied her the job because she stated she needed two weeks before starting to make child care arrangements. You cannot take an adverse action against a person based on gender and in this case that is what happened.

“Over 45 years after the passage of Title VII, discrimination against women in the workplace continues to be a problem,” said EEOC Attorney Barbara Seely. “Corporate America must be more vigilant in guarding against job bias affecting female workers or risk action and exposure by the EEOC.”

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Posted On: July 29, 2011

Promens USA Inc. Pays $225,000 To Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Promens USA, Inc. pays $225,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC filed the lawsuit on behalf of four women who were sexually harassed. Not only were the women sexually harasse but the company engaged in retaliation once the women rejected their supervisor’s sexual advances. The woman were denied job opportunities open only to male employees.

According to published accounts a Promens USA supervisor repeatedly propositioned temporary female workers. When the women rejected his advances, the supervisor fired them. This pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment continued until Promens USA fired this supervisor in July 2010 after yet another woman complained of sexual harassment. You can see what happens when a company does not take the complaints seriously. Look how much money this cost the company and they had to fire the supervisor anyway.

“This decree represents a positive outcome for all women employed in manufacturing facilities,” said John Hendrickson, EEOC regional attorney in Chicago
Posted On: July 26, 2011

Sexual Harassment Investigations

Once an employee makes a complaint to human resources or management about sexual harassment, the company usually engages in some sort of investigation. It is very important to speak with an attorney prior to the investigation because the company will have its' rights protected. And the company will have a strategy in place for conducting the investigation. Remember the company is more focused on protecting its' assets--read that as its' money. They don't want to pay you anything or as little as possible. It is important to keep this in mind as you move forward.

So what can you expect from a sexual harassment investigation? The company will want statements from you first. Once you give the statement, the company will want the names of witnesses and any other evidence you have (i.e. emails, text messages, phone voice mails etc.). Once the company has that information it will usually bring in the harasser for his side of the story. Depending on how the company handles the investigation, the company could create a hostile work environment for you based on the investigation.

Posted On: July 23, 2011

Request Your Personnel File When Filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint

My Chicago office gets this question all the time. Do I have a right to request my personnel file from human resources? The answer is yes. It is very important to request the file as soon as possible because you don't want anything to happen to job evaluations or to have your employer suddenly put negative things in your file. When people ask me to file a sexual harassment complaint on their behalf I always ask them to request the personnel file. Many times the employee file can help show there was a hostile work environment taking place at work.

I recommend you file the personnel file in writing and by email is possible. Usually if you make the request by email you will get a response and you can save that as prove that you made the request. Once you get the file, check it very carefully to ensure it is accurate and if it is not, put the discrepancy in writing. Again, it is very important to do this as soon as possible. In many cases, the personnel file can make or break your claim.

Posted On: July 22, 2011

Sexual Harassment and University Professors

In Illinois it is considered sexual harassment for a current university professor to have a sexual relationship with a student. It is sometimes referred to as school sexual harassment. Even if the sex seems on the surface consensual it really isn't because of the power the professor has over the student. Many times the professor will start by asking the student to meet outside of class under the guise of working on a project or to get improvement pointers on the students work. The student is happy to get the extra attention and doesn't at first realize the plan of the professor.

It is very important for the student to contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn of her rights under the law. My chicago office is seeing a real increase in the amount of sexual harassment cases involving students and professors. Because there are strict time limits involved in filing a complaint in Illinois it is very important to not wait too long. And just because you received a good grade that doesn't negate your claim.

Posted On: July 21, 2011

Mason County Forest Products Pays $900,000 To Settle A Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Mason County Forest Products will pay $900,000 to two female workers to settle a federal lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of the female workers after settlement efforts failed . According to published reports, the two women were subjected to widespread hostility, and that upper management at the mill chose to ignore the harassment.

In a really troubling admission upper management allegedly said

“Boys will be boys.”

When upper management makes those types of comments it is easy to see why the people under them feel they can do as they please. The supervisor for the women made it clear that he did not want women on his crew, using demeaning comments, physical intimidation and verbal threats. In a very eye opening and unbelievable admission the lawsuit alleged male employees targeted their female co-workers with lewd comments and gestures, displayed sex toys and pornography. I am glad the women stood up and made the company do the right thing. Good things happen when you fight for your rights.

“I stood up for myself and, ultimately, through this process, for other women,” said Debbie Berntsen, one of the two discrimination victims. “Companies like this need to know that they can’t allow women to be treated this way in any workplace.”
Posted On: July 20, 2011

Cavalier Telephone Settles Age Discrimination Lawsuit For $1 Million

Cavalier Telephone Company Inc. pays $1 million to settle an age discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of two individuals who complained the company was not hiring people because they were over 40 years of age. Age discrimination violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"). Persons age 40 or older are protected from employment discrimination by the act.

According to published accounts for over seven years, Cavalier Telephone’s mid-Atlantic region had a practice of not hiring applicants age 40 or older for sales account executive positions. In a very troubling practice Cavalier offered its employees a $500 bonus for referral of a “friend’s younger brother and sister.”

“Cavalier Telephone’s hiring practices penalized older applicants simply because of their age and that is illegal,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “I am pleased that we were able to work out a resolution of this suit that provides relief for the victims of discrimination and brings the company’s practices into compliance with the law.”

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Posted On: July 18, 2011

Sexual Harassment Witnesses

My Chicago offices gets many questions about what can happen to a witness in a sexual harassment or other discrimination case. The good news is an employee who comes forward and speaks truthfully about what he or she saw is protected from retaliation from the company. If any negative job action were to occur against an employee who comes forward, that employee would have a claim of retaliation against he company. That claim could be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

It is very important to speak with an attorney early in the process to determine your rights and to make sure you have the proper protections in place. Don't forget the company has attorneys and human resource personnel to protect their interests. You need to have someone fighting for your rights and interests. If you have a witness to your sexual harassment, I suggest you have the witness contact the same attorney you are utilizing so that the proper protections can be put in place.

Posted On: July 17, 2011

Richardson Industries Inc. Pays $22,500 To Settle Retaliation Lawsuit

Richardson Industries, Inc., doing business as Richco Structures, settled a retaliation lawsuit for $22,500. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of fired employee Morgan Rae Brocker after supervisors allegedly reported to management that another Richco supervisor had engaged in sexual harassment of Brocker at the company’s Christmas party in December 2005.

You can see how long after an incident a settlement can occur in some cases. The long delays are part of the process and one reason why trying to settle a case early is in the best interest of all parties. In this case there was probably more spent on attorney fees than on the settlement amount. I am seeing a rise in retaliation claims in my Chicago office.

“Retaliation complaints have been the fastest-increasing type of complaint filed with the EEOC over the past 10 years,” said John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office
Posted On: July 14, 2011

Bell Company Settles Retaliation Lawsuit For $230,000

The Bell Company pays $230,000 to settle a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Elaine Cusato. According to published accounts the Bell Company subjected Cusato to a hostile work environment while she was employed as a skilled equipment operator. The EEOC said that Cusato was subjected to daily criticism by her supervisor, the plumbing crew foreman, with a vehemence, aggression and profanity that was not directed at male workers which would be the basis for her gender discrimination lawsuit.

When mechanical foreman Timothy Shultz refused to fire Cusato solely because she was considered a “troublemaker” for complaining about the gender discrimination, both were fired as retaliation. This type of activity is not acceptable and will result in a lawsuit every time. I am glad Mr. Shultz stood up and refused to follow the company line. The company should change the way it does business and the way it treats employees.

“Employers have a responsibility to maintain an environment free of gender-based harassment and retaliation, which are clearly and simply illegal,” said EEOC Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
Posted On: July 13, 2011

Great Lakes Chemical Corp. Pays $80,000 To Settle Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Great Lakes Chemical Corporation pays $80,000 to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of black employees. According to published reports Great Lakes terminated several black employees because of their race. Specifically, Great Lakes terminated black employees based upon discriminatory and subjective evaluations. Many times in racial discrimination lawsuits statistics are utilized to prove the case.

"The EEOC remains committed to promoting equality of opportunity in the workplace for members of all races. We believe the decree entered by the Court will ensure that African American employees are not singled out for discriminatory treatment,"said EEOC Attorney Faye A. Williams.
Posted On: July 11, 2011

Arrest Record Discrimination In Illinois

In Illinois you cannot be discrimination against because of arrest record. The fact that you have been arrested can't be used by a company to make a hiring decision on you. Because many companies outsource their background checks and other human resource activity, my Chicago office is seeing an increase in the number of arrest record discrimination cases.

If you have been arrested and thought you were getting a job and suddenly did not get it call my office. However if you were arrested and convicted this won't apply as you can be not hired based on conviction in Illinois.

Posted On: July 10, 2011

Washington State Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $375,000

Washington state will pay $375,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The sexual harassment lawsuit came after a security guard at a juvenile-detention center raped a female who was incarcerated. According to published accounts the woman was 19 and serving time for various offenses. As a result of the lawsuit and the female coming forward the guard was arrested and convicted of custodial sexual misconduct.

"It was kind of an ugly, brutal, disgusting rape," said Jack Connelly, one of the woman's attorneys.
Posted On: July 9, 2011

Sexual Harassment, Retaliation and Human Resources

Corporations are losing their collective minds these days. Not only are claims of sexual harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment on the rise but when the employee reports the sexual harassment to human resources they are being terminated at an alarming rate. This is commonly referred to as retaliation. As mentioned in previous posts, the purpose of human resouces for many companies is to run interference for and eliminate troublemakers. Who does human resources belieave to be the troublemakers ? People who complain about sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination.

I know this sounds counter intuitive but the facts seem to bare this out. It is very important to do several things before going to human resources. First gather and save any evidence of the sexual harssment you may have. This will include emails, text messages, voice messages and any witnesses. Next notify human resources in writing and include copies of your evidence--so you can prove that you complained to human resources and gave them the evidence you had. This will prevent them for denying that you complained about sexual harassment at a later date. Remember in the war that is being waged against employees, human resources isn't your friend.

Posted On: July 8, 2011

Verizon Communications Settles ADA Lawsuit For $20 Million

Verizon Communications pays $20 million to settle a nationwide class Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging the company unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees and disciplined and/or fired them pursuant to Verizon’s “no fault” attendance plans.

According to documents filed in the lawsuit Verizon failed to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, such as making an exception to its attendance plans for individuals whose “chargeable absences” were caused by their disabilities. The company not only didn't make accommodations but disciplined or terminated employees who needed such accommodations. You can see by this large settlement amount how important it is to have good policies in place and to guard against discrimination in the workplace.


EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien said “Flexibility on leave can enable a worker with a disability to remain employed and productive -- a win for the worker, the employer and the economy."

Posted On: July 7, 2011

Terminix Pays $140,000 To Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Terminix and its parent company, ServiceMaster, will pay $140,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of two female employees. According to published accounts the females were repeatedly sexually harassed by a supervisor. Because it involves a supervisor there is strict liability on the company.

Apparently other supervisors were aware of the sexual harassment but failed to stop it. The supervisor suggested to the female employees that they not wear tops to work, wear nothing but Vaseline to work and should be strippers so they could give him a lap dance. The company needs to do a better job on training and hiring supervisors.

“Employers have a responsibility to take appropriate action when they learn of sexual harassment in the workplace, to both remedy the harassment that already has occurred and to prevent future harassment,” said EEOC Attorney Mary O’Neill.
Posted On: July 6, 2011

Target Settles ADA Lawsuit For $160,000

Target Corporation pays $160,000 to settle an Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), because Target failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for a cart attendant with cerebral palsy. Published accounts allege Jeremy Schott was a part-time stocker and at one point even won “Target Hero of the Month”. Schott's disabilities require that he be reminded to do certain tasks and that a job coach assist at times with his duties and job-related meetings.

The lawsuit alleged that while Schott succeeded early on with the assistance of a job coach and task reminders, Target later failed to ensure the presence of a job coach during work-related and job performance meetings. By doing this Target insured Schott would fail and this violated the ADA. I am happy that the EEOC held Targets feet to the fire and hopefully after paying this amount they will change their business practices.

“People with disabilities can be productive employees when their needs are heard and met,” said EEOC attorney Anna Park
Posted On: July 4, 2011

What Is A Hostile Work Environment?

First, happy 4th of July. Well a hostile work environment in Illinois can consist of a few things. There has to be an underlying type of discrimination before you can have a hostile work environment. For example, if you are being subjected to sexual harassment by your boss, he is also creating a hostile work environment for you and also for your co-workers. That is right your co-workers could also make a claim for discrimination based on you being sexually harassed.

My chicago office hears many types of discrimination cases and I often see the creation of a hostile work environment as a result of sexual harassment. The employee rejects the bosses advances and is then treated coldly. Maybe the persons hours are cut, projects and responsibilities taken away or the promotion is not given. It is very important to speak with an attorney to find out all of your rights and to protect yourself.

Posted On: July 3, 2011

Genesco, Inc. Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Genesco, Inc., doing business as Journeys, settled a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit for $20,000. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of three teenage female workers. According to published accounts Genesco subjected 16 year-old Lauren Torres and two other female workers, aged 16 and 19 at the time, to sexual harassment by an assistant manager. When a manager or other person in a position of power engages in sexual harassment there is strict liability to the company.

It is bad enough that the females were subjected to sexual harassment but Torres was retaliated against after complaining about the harassment when her hours were reduced and she was subjected to retaliatory comments by other Genesco managers. This type of behavior by management is not acceptable and I am glad Torres fought for her rights. My Chicago office is seeing an increase in the number of sexual harassment cases.

"Our nation’s youth deserve every opportunity to work without fear of harassment or retaliation.” said EEOC attorney Mary Jo O'Neill
Posted On: July 2, 2011

Sexual Harassment and Text Messages

There are many ways that a person can prove they are being preyed upon in the workplace. The burden of proof in a sexual harassment case is on the complainant and there usually has to be evidence to support the claim. One of the best forms of evidence is of course witnesses. However, in many cases no one is willing to come forward or the harassment is done one-on-one. Another powerful piece of evidence is the text message. Texting is very common these days and even in the workplace. If you are the victim of sexual harassment and your boss or co-workers sends you a text message that is inappropriate, save it.

If you have deleted your text message all is not lost. There is software available that allows you to retrieve the deleted text messages. There are time limits and data limits involved and you should consult my office to determine the best course of action. I recommend you get an attorney involved early in a sexual harassment or hostile work environment situation.

Posted On: July 1, 2011

A Dollar General Pays $50,000 To Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Dolgencorp, LLC, doing business as Dollar General pays $50,000 to three former female employees to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of the three workers after the company would not help them. According to published accounts Amanda Strickland, Maria Strickland and Tina Baxley were subjected to a sexually hostile work environment while employed at Dollar General.

The women were sexually harassed by a male Dollar General store manager which means there is strict liability to the company. The alleged sexual harassment included offensive sexual comments, requests for sex and unwelcome touching of the women’s breasts and buttocks. As is typical in these types of cases, management became aware of the activity and did nothing to stop it. You can see how much money it cost the company when this takes place.

“We are pleased that this settlement provides training to managers and supervisors about Title VII’s requirements against discrimination and harassment,” said EEOC attorney Lynette A. Barnes