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People's Law Guide


Sexual Harassment: Teenagers and Gay Men Are Targeted At Work



      Businesses long associated as being “male-dominated” have found themselves the focus of EEOC attention. Hill Brothers Construction, based in Oxford, Mississippi, was hit with a $225,000 punitive damages verdict by jurors who heard three truck drivers describe sexually offensive physical touchings and remarks they were subjected to. Each worker received an equal portion of a $75,000 share of the verdict.

      Large pay-outs by auto dealerships have also occurred. Ron Clark Ford of Amarillo, Texas paid $140,000 to six former male employees who complained of managers grabbing their genitals and buttocks and demeaning them with sexually offensive comments. EEOC reported the dealership’s management sometimes ignored and other times laughed at sexually abusive treatment directed toward the men. Burt Chevrolet, owned by LGC Management, one of Colorado’s largest car dealership chains, paid $500,000 to 10 former salesmen who lodged complaints of being sexually harassed by male managers. The employees had male bosses who pressed their groins onto their buttocks, grabbed their crotches, and made crude sexual remarks, EEOC noted. Workers also told of a manager who would expose himself. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, both auto dealerships described the behavior of their mangers as meaningless “horseplay.” However, the legal defense utilized by some employers that “boys will be boys” or workplace events were mere “locker room antics” have not fared well. Sundowner Offshore Services, an oil-drilling firm, claimed abuse inflicted on a male worker by other men was hazing, not sexual harassment. The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t accept the employer’s downplaying as mere hijinks frequent threats that the worker would be raped and his being targeted with on-going humiliating acts and comments as lawful. The actions inflicted on the employee, Oncale claimed, could not be considered sexual harassment since they were not motivated sexual desires of the worker’s heterosexual co-workers. Supreme Court justices ruled the sexual orientation of the male worker bringing the case and the men who tormented him did not constitute grounds as a legal defense to sexual harassment charges. The events themselves, not the underlining motivational impulses behind them, were cited as being illegal. Here in Florida, a senior account executive working for United Healthcare in Sunrise, a city located in western Broward County, was paid $1.8 million to settle his claim of being sexually harassed by a male boss. Though the executive complained to successive chief executive officers of being verbally sexually harassed, EEOC reports the male employee was subjected to a retaliatory scheme which denied him of commissions and stock options. As part of the settlement, UnitedHealthCare agreed to better train employees to prevent discrimination and to report to EEOC twice annually all internal complaints of discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

Male Teens also Exploited at Work

      Teenage male employees have also been targeted with sexual harassment. Not surprisingly, employers charged for tolerating this type of sexual abuse are in industries attracting young workers. Carmike Cinemas, based in North Carolina, agreed to pay $765,000 to 14 teenage males who reported their supervisor made sexual advances and comments toward them. EEOC filed a class action lawsuit against Pand Enterprises, an operator of McDonald’s restaurants in New Mexico, arising out of complaints a male supervisor groped teenage boys, requested sex and bombarded them with sexually-offensive remarks. The McDonald’s franchisee agreed to pay $90,000 to the young males, some just 15 years of age. Wyndham Hotel Company’s parent firm, WorldMark, paid $370,000 to four males 17 to 25 years of age, who worked at Birch Bay Resort in Blaine, Washington. According to EEOC, the resort’s manager “abused his power and exploited the vulnerabilities of a young male staff” by touching them, imposing sexual demands and inappropriately commenting on their looks. EEOC obtained court approval to scrutinize the resort’s employment practices for a three year duration. Concerned about the large number of sexual harassment complaints being lodged by teenage workers, male and female, EEOC has developed a “Youth@Work” section on its website to provide employment law information to young people entering the workforce and also to their parents.

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