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My Boss Sexually Harassed Me At Our Christmas Party! Can I Sue? I Need A Lawyer!

| Dec 25, 2014 | Employment Discrimination, Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment |

Best Ohio Sexual Harassment Attorney: What should I do if my manager tried to kiss me? Do I have a sexual harassment claim if my supervisor gave me a dildo? Can I sue if my boss hired a stripper to dance for the employees at a holiday party?

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Here is the difference between an employer-side employment blog and an employee-side employment blog: lawyers for employers post blogs in advance of holiday parties warning employers what not to do while plaintiff-side employment discrimination lawyers post our right after the party season so that employees that were just sexually harassed at these parties don’t feel alone.

So, with that said, our employment attorneys bring you a few Santa’s Holiday Lessons for workplace holiday parties. Let’s start with some basic law before we address the idiot sexually harassing bosses, managers, and supervisors out there: “the party was a corporate-sponsored holiday party for restaurant employees. The official nature of a company holiday party makes sexual harassment at the party a risk created by employment, even if the party is held off company premises.” So said the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire in Fernandes v. TPD, Inc.

Now let’s turn to a few cases that demonstrate how holiday parties can turn from festive into sexual harassment.

Can I be fired for reporting sexual harassment? Call the gender discrimination lawyers and sexual harassment attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm to get a free consultation and learn about your employment law right.

Santa’s Holiday Lessons 1

In Fernandes, Carla Fernandes worked at Lou’s Restaurant, which was owned and operated by Toby and Pattie Fried. Before the holiday party, the defendant employer made several sexually explicit comments on a regular basis, including about Fernandes’ “‘hairy beaver,’ which Fernandes interpreted as a reference to sexual organs.” (I swear to G-d that this is a quote from the case. How else does one interpret discussing a woman’s “hairy beaver”?!? – except of course for Lt. Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun.) Then, at the holiday party, the bosses gave Fernandes a container marked “penis butter” and another marked “boob lube,” and passed around a “fake penis,” which I think everyone but this court would call a dildo. Fernandes complained and was wrongfully fired. The court refused to dismiss the sexual harassment claims. Santa’ Lesson to all the bosses: sex toys do not make good stocking stuffers.

Santa’s Holiday Lessons 2

In Showalter v. Allison Reed Group, Inc., while working overtime, Gary Showalter regularly caught his boss having sex with other employees in his office … because the office had a window that was open to the entire office space. So it should not have been a surprise at the holiday party when the boss gave out black panties and t-shirts that said “All I want is a little peace and quiet. Give me a little piece and I’ll be quiet,” and “Big cats are dangerous but a little pussy won’t hurt anyone!” However, Showalter was caught by surprise when his boss required him and many other employees to participate in a strip poker game on company premises following the Christmas party. “The game broke up when a driver from United Parcel Service unexpectedly opened up an unlocked door.” The motion to dismiss was denied. Santa’s Lesson to all the bosses: getting employees naked does not qualify as reindeer games, and no, panties and sexually explicit clothing are not good stocking stuffers either.

Santa’s Holiday Lessons 3

As reported in Lahey v. JM Mortg. Servs., Henry was working as a loan processor at JM Mortgage services when he began to feel subject to a “sexually charged work environment” when his co-workers made several comments of an “explicit sexual nature” around him. At the company’s Christmas party, Henry’s co-workers, who were all women, hired a male stripper to perform, which caused Henry to get up and leave. Apparently, the stripper was photogenic and Henry’s co-workers shared several photographs of the stripper dancing with them back at the office. When Henry complained to the owner, JoAnn Morse, she allegedly refused to discuss his complaints and “summarily terminated him on the spot.” The court found that Henry sufficiently stated a claim for sexual harassment and retaliation. Santa’s Lesson to all the bosses: strippers don’t add to the holiday spirit; don’t show pictures of strippers around the office; and don’t fire employees that complain if you do.

Santa’s Holiday Lessons 4

In King v. Board of Regents of University of Wisconsin System, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a supervisors conduct rose to an objectionable level at the office holiday party when he followed the plaintiff into a bathroom, telling her that he “had to have her” and that “he would have her.” Despite Katherine King’s protests, the supervisor, Stephen Sonstein, forcibly kissed and fondled her, stopping when the plaintiff’s boyfriend came into the bathroom. Based on this conduct and the fact that he had repeatedly leered at King; touched her, rubbed up against her, placed objects between her legs, made suggestive comments about various parts of her body, the court held in King’s favor. Santa’s Lesson to all the bosses: you are not Santa. Do not try and make employees sit on your lap.

Santa’s Holiday Lessons 5

In Rolfs v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., the United States District Court for the District New Hampshire stated the facts best:

In particular, [manager] Kelly referred to the customer as “a nice piece of ass,” and asked Rolfs when he was “going to put it to her”. When Rolfs expressed disinterest in pursuing sexual relations with the customer, Kelly asked him whether he was “a homo,”  [6] In 2008, Rolfs did not mention Kelly’s in-store boorishness to anyone at Home Depot and did not ask Kelly to stop it. Rather, he tried to change the subject when Kelly started talking about the female customer.

In January of 2009, Rolfs attended a Home Depot holiday that was being held at a restaurant. Near the end of it, Kelly launched into a loud discussion of Rolfs’ interactions with the female customer. Kelly initially directed his remarks to guests at the party, but subsequently spoke to two other diners at the restaurant who were not attending the party. In his deposition, Rolfs described Kelly as saying:

[to other Home Depot employees:] Look at this fucking homo. He’s a – he’s a, you know, What is he a fag? He’s not going to fuck – just because he’s married he’s not going to fuck this smoking hot piece of ass? I mean, she’s all over him and he just won’t do it just ‘cause he’s married? … Oh, I’d love to just give it to her hard, you know, and he won’t do it just because he’s married and blah, blah, blah, blah. …

 [to other diners in the restaurant not associated  [7] with the Home Depot party:] Look at this fucking homo. He just won’t cheat on his wife just because – or he won’t fuck this smoking hot piece of ass just because he’s married. Can you believe that? Can you believe this guy?

 [to Rolfs:] You’re a fucking homo. You’re a fucking pussy. You know, just because you’re married, you’re not going to fuck this smoking hot piece of ass.

[to other diners:] Can you believe this fucking homo for not . . . fucking this woman.

And, similar comments were made in the store for quite some time. But even given this conduct, the court dismissed the case holding that this treatment was not based on gender and that there was no direct causal link between any complaints by Rolfs to his discipline and eventual termination. Santa’s Lesson to all the sexually harassed employees: Do not wait to send in your list of complaints for HR to check twice to see who was naughty and nice. Contact the best sexual harassment attorney that you can find as soon as possible to help you with your claims.

Sexual harassment obviously occurs more than just when bosses, managers, and supervisors get drunk at a Christmas party. For employees in Ohio, state and federal laws are in place to protect workers from enduring sexual harassment at work, including Ohio R.C. § 4112.02 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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.