EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION FILES SEXUAL HARASSMENT SUITS ACROSS THE US
This summer, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the federal watch dog for federal employment discrimination statutes, filed seven sexual harassment lawsuits against companies across the United States. Another likely response to the #MeToo movement. Despite the change in Administrations, the watch dog agencies are still at work!
Of these seven lawsuits:
- Six allege female employees were sexually harassed, while one alleges racial and same-sex harassment of a male Asian-American employee;
- Five allege the harassment was done by a direct supervisor, manager, or owner. Two of the lawsuits also assert retaliation against the victim;
- Four of the lawsuits are claims brought by one individual employee;
- Two of the lawsuits are based on a failure of the employer to distribute a policy against sexual harassment and to train employees on sexual harassment.
These lawsuits should serve as a warning for employers. First, the EEOC keeps reiterating it will take single employee cases to court. For employers this is significant because litigation with the EEOC, a government entity, is quite costly. Unlike the average single employee, the EEOC has the backing of the United States government and can litigate with minimal concern for the expense.
The lawsuits asserting retaliation should remind employers that once an employee has engaged in protected activity such as complaining of harassment, they cannot be treated differently. This is a tall order. It is human nature for those accused of any misconduct to want to fight back. The problem is, retaliation is unlawful and often easier to win than the underlying discrimination case.
As for the lawsuits alleging failures on the part of the employers to distribute anti-harassment policies and to train employees on these policies, it is a reminder employers should include these policies in their handbooks and conduct appropriate training even if no law mandates such conduct.
These cases make clear the EEOC is serious about utilizing the momentum of the #MeToo movement to go after employers who are not in compliance with employment discrimination laws.
Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.454.0560.