Pacific Airport Services, Inc. pays $65,000 to settle a multi-count lawsuit involving sexual harassment and constructive discharge. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“) after initial settlement discussions failed. Before we begin with an analysis of the facts, lets discuss a few terms. Under the law a constructive discharge occurs when an employee is subjected to discrimination and conditions at work get so bad that any reasonable person would quit the job. The quitting is treated as a firing based on the discriminatory conduct. The second term to discuss is sexual harassment. Under the law, sexual harassment is any unwanted attempt at a sexual relationship or sexual comments that create a hostile work environment. Also, if the sexual comments are directed at another employee but you hear them, they could create a form of discrimination for you too. And if a supervisor is having a sexual relationship with another employee this could cause you to be subjected to sexual harassment as you could be denied promotional or other opportunities because you are not having sex with the boss.
According to published accounts a number of customer service agents were sexually harassed by their male supervisor while working for Pacific Airport Services. Under the law if a supervisor is doing the sexual harassment there is immediate liability on the company. Another words, you don’t first have to complain to human resources or report the conduct before liability attaches. The supervisor continuously subjected the women to sexual comments and advances, asking the women to perform sexual acts. This is probably the most troubling type of sexual harassment. Women should be allowed to go to work and do their job without being subjected to this type of behavior. In at least one instance, the supervisor allegedly requested oral sex from one of the customer service agents. One has to wonder what type of training these members of management had prior to being allowed to supervise other employees? Companies would be wise to spend time and money up front training management on what is proper behavior in the workplace. In this case the supervisor also grabbed the women, fondled their buttocks and placed his pelvic area in front of a female employee’s face. So that was the basis for the sexual harassment claim.
On the constructive discharge claim the following occurred. The females complained to management about the sexual harassment but the supervisor was not adequately disciplined since he maintained his supervisorial authority even after the conduct was reported. To make matters worse, at least one of the women was forced to resign as a result of continued hostility on the part of her supervisor. That is the constructive discharge. When things get so bad that the female could no longer come into work, she had no other recourse. The company should not have left the supervisor in place after this conduct was reported. You can see how much money this cost the company in settlement funds but also in legal fees and they lost a good employee. My Chicago offices gets many calls from women that are in similar circumstances. It is very important that these women come forward and protect their rights. Negative job reviews or getting fired for reporting sexual harassment can have a negative impact of your future career prospects. You may lose income in the hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road for something that is taking place right now. Make sure you protect your rights and take action now.
“Employers are responsible for maintaining a harassment-free environment for their employees. Those who have a well-distributed policy against sexual harassment, train employees on the policy and employ staff who are able to effectively investigate complaints will go a long way toward preventing such abuses on the job.” said EEOC attorney Timothy Riera