Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Men are Filing Complaints of Sexual Harassment

The Tampa Tribune recently reported that there has been an increase in the number of harassment complaints that men have filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The article notes that while the majority of harassment complaints have been filed by women, in recent years the number of complaints filed by men has doubled.

The article acknowledged that there are cases in which the harassment comes from female supervisors or co-workers. Most of these cases, however, involve men harassing men. This arises from the harasser: 1) making unwelcome romantic advances; 2) picking on a gay employee; 3) perceiving that an employee is gay; or 4) targeting a man who is not considered masculine.

The article identified a couple of cases brought by men resulting in costly settlements:

· In November, 2009, the Cheesecake Factory agreed to pay $345,000 to male employees who claimed that they were sexually assaulted by co-workers.

· In 2009, the Regal Entertainment Group (which operates a chain of movie theaters) agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a lawsuit by a male employee who said a female co-worker repeatedly grabbed his crotch.

The article also highlighted a pending case in which a food runner at Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Win Bar in Arizona was sexually harassed more than a dozen times by his male supervisor. The employee complained and the harassment continued. After the last incident of harassment, the employee lost his composure and yelled at a chef, creating a scene. The restaurant fired the employee for misconduct. The employee is now suing for harassment and retaliation.

Given the alleged retaliatory conduct at Flemings, a jury will not show sympathy towards the decision made by management. A huge settlement in this case would not be surprising.

The lessons for employers are loud and clear. Owners and executives need to be aware of the environment at the lower levels of their businesses. All claims of harassment must be addressed swiftly and geared towards improving the atmosphere of the workplace. Owners must also dismiss the “boys will be boys” attitude. Complaints of harassment raised by men must also be handled as swiftly and thoroughly as complaints raised by women. Failure to do so will leave a business vulnerable to the same fate experienced by the Cheesecake Factory.

Employees who have experienced harassment or retaliation at work, should not delay in contacting legal counsel. I am available to discuss the specifics of your case and recommend the best course of action. Do not hesitate to call me at (813) 413-2402.

See More Men File Sexual Harassment Claims

Monday, March 1, 2010

Owner Says You Cannot be Pregnant and Work as a Bartender

A woman in Long Island has brought a discrimination claim against her former employer alleging that she was fired because she was pregnant. The woman worked as a bartender at a "gentlemen's club." Among other things, the owner told her that he did not think customers are coming to see "sexy bartenders that are pregnant and bulging out." Of course, there are two sides to every story, but based on these facts, I doubt this young lady will have a hard time proving liability. The question is, how much will it cost this bar to resolve the case. The following details are provided by ABC News:

Bartender in Topless Bar Says She Was Discriminated Against for Being Pregnant

When Jennifer Paviglianiti, 29, of Centereach, N.Y., discovered she was pregnant, she hoped to wait until the three-month mark to tell her boss, John Doxey. But workplace gossip got to him first.

Once Doxey heard the news, Paviglianiti says, he immediately showed he had doubts about her work status.

Now, Paviglianiti says, she has been unfairly let go from her bartending job at the Cafe Royale gentlemen's club. She has filed charges of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The charges, which were received by the EEOC on February 2, say the "cause of discrimination" is based on "sex, retaliation, perceived disability, and pregnancy." In the charges, Paviglianiti says she "encountered continual blatant discrimination," and that Doxey told her customers are "not coming in to see sexy bartenders that are pregnant and bulging out."

Long Island Bar Fires Pregnant Bartender

Edit: 3/5/2010 In posting this article I was not taking a position on whether the complainant made a good choice in choosing her place of employment. Indeed, if this case goes before a jury, the jury should not consider whether her decision to work in this particular bar involved an exercise of good judgment. My purpose in posting this article was to use an interesting case to highlight the issues involved in pregnancy discrimination.