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FAQ on Hostile Work Environment of Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for above-the-bar-logo-no12.jpgFAQ: I work as a waitress at a restaurant where most of the women are sexually harassed everyday. The male waiters make disgusting sexual comments and sexual advances at most of the female waitresses. Although we have complained to the manager, he has done nothing. Since most of us cannot afford to quit, what can we do?

You and your colleagues should definitely speak to one of our experienced Sexual Harassment Attorneys. Based on all the facts in your circumstances, your employer may be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by allowing a hostile work environment based on sexual harassment to continue.

A hostile work environment based on sexual harassment is a form of unlawful employment discrimination if the offensive conduct becomes a condition of your employment and the conduct is severe or pervasive enough that it creates a work environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, hostile, or abusive. For example, courts have found the following to create a hostile environment: posting pornography, using derogatory terms or gestures, and unwelcome lewd jokes or obscenities.

Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry is a problem faced by women across the country. The EEOC recently settled a class sexual harassment lawsuit with Missoula Mac, Inc., the owner and franchisee of 25 McDonald’s restaurants, who agreed to pay $1 million and provide substantial injunctive relief. The charges were initially filed by 3 women who worked at the McDonalds.

The EEOC’s suit had charged Missoula Mac with violating civil rights laws by allowing male employees to create a hostile work environment of sexual harassment against female co-workers and by retaliating against those who complained about the sexual harassment.

The EEOC’s complaint alleged that at least since 2006, several male employees sexually harassed their female co-workers with sexual comments, kissing, touching their private parts, and forcing their hands onto the men’s private parts. Although the female employees complained about the sexual harassment, Missoula Mac failed to remedy the situation, which forced at least one of the employees to quit. Furthermore, after the other harassed employees repeatedly complained about the harassment, the company retaliated by firing them.

The District Court Judge entered a consent decree which requires Missoula Mac to pay $1 million in compensatory damages to 10 former employees who were sexually harassed and retaliated against. The decree also requires the company to take the following action:

  • create a job position that will be monitor, solicit and resolve complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation;
  • create telephone and e-mail hotlines for employees to report sexual harassment or retaliation;
  • evaluate its managers’ and supervisors’ performance in part based on their restaurants’ compliance with anti-harassment and anti-retaliation laws and policies;
  • keep track of and maintain records of any complaints of sexual harassment;
  • put in place a comprehensive training program to investigate internal complaints; and
  • submit periodic reports to the EEOC that the company is in compliance with the consent decree.

As the settlement in the Missoula Mac demonstrates, a hostile work environment of sexual harassment is not tolerated by the courts and should not be tolerated by you or your colleagues. In fact, companies have more to lose by not promptly investigating complaints of sexual harassment and taking action to correct the misconduct. Our attorneys have helped many victims of sexual harassment as well as employment discrimination based on race, national origin, color, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, and religion recover their workplace rights.

If you feel you are being sexually harassed or discriminated against at your place of employment, call our New York Employment Discrimination Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645 to determine if any of your rights have been violated.

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