As an employment discrimination attorney, I am cognizant of the many misconceptions about sexual harassment claims. Sexual harassment is an issue only for young women. Sexual harassment can only occur on work time. The male supervisor has to ask for sex more than once. A woman has no claim if she appears to go along with it. None of this is true. And, the case of Lesley Shiner is a perfect example of sexual harassment to dispel these misconceptions.
Shiner is 64 years old, sued the University at Buffalo and its Dean of the Dental School, Dr. Jude A. Fabiano, based on her allegations that Fabiano made unwelcome sexual advances at an off-campus party Christmas party and thus, created a hostile work environment. Although there were allegations of a “sexually charged” atmosphere while at work, the allegations revolved around what occurred at the party.
One co-worker witness reported that Fabiano “was touchy. You could tell he had too many drinks.” But, we know that alcohol is not a free pass to sexually harass.
According to the Complaint and four witnesses, Fabiano encourage Shiner and another female employee to kiss, including putting his arms around their necks and pulling them together.
The defense responded by arguing that Shiner did not seem offended at the time. According to a defense witness, “She looked to me like she was having a good time. When she left, she came up behind me and said she had a great time.” Another supervisor said the two female employees were “giddy and giggling” when their boss attempted to pull them together for the proposed kiss. “They didn’t kiss. They didn’t want to. They weren’t agitated. It seemed like everyone was having fun. No one was struggling to get out of where they were.”
For his part, Fabiano tried to downplay the conduct as mere socialization with his subordinates – and not sexual harassment: “I saw it as part of my role at the dental school to socialize with staff members at these department parties… The actions allegedly taken by me and others at the party, including the plaintiff, may have been silly, boorish or socially inappropriate at times, but they were part of the socializing which occurred at the party.”
In the end, the employer recognized the risk of this defense and settled for $255,000. Shiner’s age did not matter; that it occurred one time off clock and off premises with alcohol involved did not matter; and that Shiner appeared happy at the party did not matter. It was sexual harassment.
If you feel that you are being sexually harassed or are working in a sexually charged or hostile working environment, you should not wait to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At the Spitz law firm, you will meet with a sexual harassment lawyer/hostile work environment attorney to find out what your legal rights are under Title VII and Ohio’s sexual harassment laws . Sexual harrassment is a form of gender discrimination, and employers should be held accountable if they discriminate against female workers in any fashion – but particularly for sexual harrassment.
The materials available at this gender discrimination and employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. It is best contact an Ohio sexual harassment attorney/hostile work environment lawyer to obtain advice with respect to sexual harassment/hostile work environment questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of the Spitz law firm or any individual attorney.