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Best Ohio Sexual Harassment Attorney Answer: If I feel like I’m being sexually harassed, should I complain to my employer? Is it wrongful termination for being fired shortly after complaining about sexual harassment? If my employer forces me to quit or be fired can I still pursue a sexual harassment claim against them? 

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As a new employee entering the workforce, I have vivid memories of a public service announcement where a woman firmly tells her creepy boss that his comments are “sexual harassment, and I don’t have to take it.” Check out a version of the sexual harassment video here. Sometimes it’s easy to determine just exactly what sexual harassment is, for instance, the boss repeatedly gropes a subordinate employee in a secluded hallway and threatens to fire her if she says anything; or a supervisor puts up pictures of naked ladies or passes out sex toys. These would be obvious examples of sexually hostile work environments. Similarly, a supervisor demanding blow jobs in exchange for scheduling accommodations or job security would be clear case of quid pro quo sexual harassment, which means “this for that” in Latin. Both sexually hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment are forms of gender discrimination that violate Ohio R.C. § 4112.99 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Sometime, it is clear that conduct, albeit inappropriate, does not rise to the level of being sever and pervasive in order to be a sexually hostile work environment. For instance, an employee overhears a fellow coworker tell a mildly inappropriate joke putting a female character in an unfavorable light, but it was not directed toward any individual female employee; it only happened once; and the female employee who heard the joke is paid equally, treated equally, promoted equally, and disciplined equally in comparison to her male coworkers. There is most likely claim here absent other supportive facts. One of those facts that may change this scenario is retaliation against the employee for complaining about this situation of perceived sexual harassment.

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But, some situations are not that clear. It is important to remember, that fuzzy lines, or gray areas are not always a bad thing. Differences in perception can sometimes lead to what employment law lawyers call questions of fact. In order to make it past an important procedural hurdle in the life cycle of a law suit called summary judgment, a plaintiff must be able to point to questions of fact. For instance, a recent case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Ohio) explains just what it takes to clear this jump and make it on to the next phase. In Montell v. Diversified Clinical Services, Inc., the Court allowed the plaintiff to proceed on with her case to a jury trial after she was fired within a day of complaining about sexual harassment.

The company took the position that Montell was struggling in her role, and having performance related issues. But all the while, Montell claims that she was being coached and trained because the company wanted her to succeed in her position, and that she was improving until her boss made several offensive comments. For example, he would preface offensive comments by saying, “don’t tell human resources,” or “you’re going to get me in trouble,” and then proceed to say, “nothing turns me on more than a woman in a red dress and heels” while Montell was wearing…you guessed it…a red dress and heels. Montell’s supervisor also told her that other people thought she was an airhead when they first met her, and at the same time drew an hourglass figure with his hands. Montell complained about this conduct to a member of human resources. Almost immediately after receiving the complaint, human resources notified Montell’s supervisor, and the very next day he told Montell that she could either quit or be fired.

The trial court originally found in favor of the company on plaintiff’s claim of retaliation. The trial court held that Montell had to show more than just evidence of how close in time the complaint and termination was to prove that the complaint—and not her performance—motivated the decision to terminate. However, the Court of Appeals overturned this decision. In a classic case of he said, she said, the court found that a jury should decide who to believe and just like that, a blurred line becomes more clear, and it’s possible that Montell will be able to convince a jury that what happened to her really was sexual harassment and retaliation, and hopefully, she won’t have to take it.

Specifically, the Court of Appeals held:

Simply put, two pieces of evidence undermine the suggestion that Montell’s termination was the result of poor performance. First, the decisionmakers testified in their depositions that they had not yet decided to terminate Montell. Second, Montell’s testimony that Day called her and the hospital liaison in order to force her resignation suggests that the real reason for her termination was not poor performance—after all, the decisionmakers had not yet decided to terminate her—but rather retaliation for Montell’s sexual harassment complaint against Day. Because a reasonable jury could conclude that Montell’s poor performance was not sufficient to motivate Day’s calls—i.e., that the stated reason for Montell’s discharge is merely pretext—and instead, that Day’s calls causing Montell’s constructive discharge were in fact retaliatory, Montell has met her ultimate burden to withstand summary judgment.

Sexual harassment is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar Ohio laws. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. 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 and the best way to protect them. 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. It does not matter if you have been wrongfully fired or are still employed, there is no reason to wait to find out what your legal rights are and how to protect yourself from sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this page and at this gender discrimination, wrongful termination, and sex harassment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking “what should I do …”, “I’m being sexually harassed …” “my supervisor grabbed my…”, “my boss is touching…,” “I’ve been wrongfully terminated,” or “how do I …”, your best course is to 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 the top of this page or through this employment law website are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of the Spitz law firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.