UNLIKELY IN THE FACE OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
AND RETALIATION FOR A SERVER
Our Award-Winning New York Employment Lawyer has been asked to comment to a recent case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against Mayflower Seafood of Goldsboro, Inc. (“Mayflower”). This case is discussed generally below. If you have any questions about your workplace and/or understanding your rights, options and how to protect yourself, call our office for a confidential consultation.
The Complaint alleges that Mayflower violated federal law by subjecting Liza Hill (“Hill”), a female employee — server/cashier, to a sexually hostile work environment for approximately 15 months and retaliating against her after she complained about the harassment and filed criminal charges against her harassers. The allegations include that Hill’s manager and four other male co-workers engaged in the behavior listed below.
Some of the Specific Sexual Harassment Allegations
• Making daily “references to Hill’s breasts, like stating that Hill would make a lot of tips because of her breast size”;
• Expressing the desire “to squeeze and bite Hill’s breasts”;
• On a monthly basis “ask[ing] Hill for sexual favors, including both oral and anal sex”;
• Talking to Hill about the manager’s sexual relationship with his girlfriend, “including providing details of their sexual acts”;
• On one occasion, poking Hill in her left breast with a steak knife” and commenting about her “big breasts”. “When Hill got up to leave the table, the restaurant manager asked Hill whether she was going to the restroom to masturbate”;
• On a daily basis, “telling Hill that she is pretty, asking to be their girlfriend”;
• Showing Hill pictures of naked women; and
• Subjecting Hill to unwelcome touching such as pressing an “erect penis against her buttocks”, slapping her buttocks, and rubbing a foot against her crotch.
The complaint alleges that the sexual harassment was severe or pervasive and occured on a near daily basis.
On or about September 5, 2013, Hill complained to her immediate supervisor about the harassment. The following week, “the co-workers retaliated against Hill by yelling at her and mixing up her food orders.” After Hill complained yet again, she was suspended from work for ten (10) days. After Hill filed criminal charges against the restaurant manager and her co-workers, her hours were reduced and she was ultimately removed from the work schedule. EEOC’s complaint alleges that these actions constituted adverse actions and were taken in retaliation for Hill’s complaints about the sexual harassment.
If proven, the alleged conduct would violate federal law – Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. Furthermore, Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination in the workplace. The anti-retaliation provision is intended to encourage complaints and not chill the workforce.
• Injunctive relief against Mayflower;
• Back pay for Hill, including interest;
• Compensation for past and future economic losses; and • Compensatory and punitive damages for Hill.
The alleged conduct is wrong and does not belong in a workplace – employees should have the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment. “No one should have to put up with sexual comments or unwanted touching while they are at work. In addition, employers must remember they cannot retaliate against an employee for complaining about sexual harassment” said Lynette Barnes, Regional Attorney of the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.
It is important to note that this case is in its very early stages and the Company has not had the opportunity to respond to the allegations. The Company may deny the allegations and vigorously defend itself. Although the allegations appear egregious, readers should not simply assume that they are true before the case has progressed and the strength and merits have been found. Sexual harassment cases often include issues of proof. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is helpful to keep notes of incidents, records of text messages or emails and a record of witnesses to effectively combat against a “he said/she said” defense.
Finally, it is worth noting that this is a general discussion and everyone’s situation is unique. The circumstances and application can vary based on the facts and the location of the alleged harassing conduct. For example, the standard for sexual harassment cases in New York City is different than the federal law and there can be variances in state laws as well. If you or anyone you know is facing a hostile work environment or otherwise sexually harassing environment, contact our New York Employment Law Attorney for a confidential consultation to learn your rights at (800) 893-9645.
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