Federal commission wins sexual discrimination appeal case for man

When one person sexually harasses another person, it creates a tense atmosphere in the workplace for the person being harassed. Sexual harassment charges can be filed and the person at fault can face financial punishments through a civil lawsuit. Typically, such cases are between a man and a woman, but same-sex harassment also takes place. Our New York readers might be interested to learn, a same-sex sexual harassment lawsuit can be filed against supervisors, even though no involved was gay.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently won an appeal through the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The federal commission took up the cause for a man who claimed he was harassed by supervisors while he worked for a large New Orleans construction company.

The man was an iron worker who was helping to repair a bridge in post-Katrina New Orleans. While on the job, the man alleged he was teased, mocked humped and taunted with gay slurs. The harassment came from his supervisor who was employed by the company. The man sued the construction company for sexual harassment and discrimination and in 2009, a jury awarded the man $450,000 in punitive damages. That award was reduced to $300,000 due to award limits.

The 5th District U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the jury. The 3-judge panel did not feel the award or the judgment were accurate. This is when the EEOC stepped in and requested the entire court review the case. In a 10-6 ruling, the court ruled that the man was indeed harassed, but stopped short in reinstating the punitive award.

Although the man will not receive the award given by the jury, the case did prove that sexual harassment can occur between men. Since neither man identified himself as gay, even though the harassment was not necessarily sexually based, it was still inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

As an employee, you do not have to simply “deal” with inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Sexual harassment can take many forms, but there is legal recourse available for those whose employers have not taken the appropriate action against those responsible for the harassment.

The Wall Street Journal, “Taunting of Iron Worker Was Illegal Harassment, Appeals Court Says” Jacob Gershman, Oct. 02, 2013

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