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Do Women Have To Accept An Existing Sexist Work Culture? I Need An Employment Discrimination Lawyer!

| Sep 25, 2015 | Employment Discrimination, Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio Gender Discrimination Claims Attorney Answer: Can I quit and sue if I am being sexually harassed at work by my boss? Who should I report a hostile work environment to at my job? Do I have a claim for wrongful termination?

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At some point, we have all been in a conversation with some that starts a sentence with something like, “Not to be mean …”, “I mean this in the best way …”, or “Not to be disrespectful.” We all know what is coming next, something mean, not in the best way and disrespectful. Bosses, managers, and supervisors are no different. They say bad things. Sometimes horrible things. And, just like everyone else, these bosses, managers, and supervisors cannot make what they say acceptable by simply saying, “not to be sexist” or “I don’t mean this in a bad racial way.” Likewise, your employer does not get to say, these horrible things that we say is okay in here because this is just part of our culture. Yet, over and over again, our employment discrimination lawyers deal with sexist or racist bosses that will defend their conduct by simply saying that it what they said or did was not meant to be offensive and that is just how their work culture is. To be clear, deciding to have a sexist or racist work culture is not an exception to employment discrimination laws – it is the very definition of a violation of those laws.

As our employment discrimination attorneys have blogged about before, Ohio law – in Ohio Revised Code §4112.02 – and federal law – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provide legal protections against employment discrimination based on gender. (See I Was Fired For Reporting Gender Discrimination! I Need The Best Lawyer!; Can I Sue For Gender Discrimination If I’m A Man? Top Ohio Employment Law Attorney Reply; Top Sexual Harassment Lawyer Reply: Can I Still Bring A Gender Discrimination Claim If I Am Forced To Quit?; and Gender Discrimination – YouTube).

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This blog helps define and provides an example of the Court denying an employer’s motion to dismiss for causes of action asserting claims of a “hostile work environment.”

The plaintiff-employee in Elizabeth Hasbrouck Anderson v. Edmiston & Company, Inc brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer for gender-based discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. In this case, the Court, in part, had to determine whether gender discrimination can support a claim for a hostile work environment.

The employer is a New York corporation specializing in the sale, charter, management, and new construction of yachts around the world. The employee, Anderson, worked for Edmiston from July 2008 until November 8, 2013. During her employment with Edmiston, Anderson reported to the same supervisor, Robert Shepherd , throughout the entirety of her employment with Edmiston. During Anderson’s five-plus years at Edmiston, Shepherd rose the ranks at Edmiston and was named as the President of the Edmiston’s New York Office and reported directly to Edmiston’s owner. In addition, Edmiston was also named as Partner of Edmiston. In addition to the above accoutrements, Edmison also excelled at being misogynist, a sexist, and a discriminator of women. Essentially, the boss hated all females.

During the course of her employment at Edmiston, Anderson observed and/or was directly subjected to continuing incidents of Shepherd’s gender discrimination. The below are just some examples of Shepherd’s discriminatory and sexist behavior:

  1. Shepherd said that if Anderson “messed up one more time” he was “going to spank” her;
  2. Shepherd told Anderson: “[y]ou have to understand that this is a very sexist organization” and that he did not believe that women were suited for leadership roles;
  3. Repeatedly called Anderson a “good girl” even after she requested he stop;
  4. On two separate occasion, in speaking to Anderson, he referred to one female Edmiston employee as a “C-U-Next-Tuesday,” and profanely referred to another female Edmiston employee as  “c___t.” [content omitted]; and
  5. Regularly disparaged female Edmiston employees as “that f__king woman” [content omitted] or “that stupid woman,” but did not treat his male colleagues the same way.

In addition to the above, on October 18, 2012, while on a conference call, and in Anderson’s presence, Shepherd stated that all of the women working in yacht charter are “so stupid” that he had to do all of their work and that they “should all just lie down and spread their legs for [him].” Sounds like a real peach of a boss, doesn’t he? Shortly after this “incident,” Anderson contacted Shepherd, by email, to report her distress over the sexist and gender based comments Shepherd had made during the above described conference call. In response to her email reporting the sexual harassment and gender discrimination, Shepherd told Anderson that he was sorry for hurting her feelings but refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct.

Thereafter, on November 1, 2012, Anderson verbally reported to Shepherd that his blatant misogyny made it impossible for her to continue to work in that environment or under his continued supervision. As such, Anderson requested to be transferred to Edmiston’s London office. The following day, Shepherd told Anderson that her request to be transferred to the London office was denied because of company financial restraints and further that “misogyny was just something that she would have to deal with.” Thereafter, and in short order, Anderson’s employment with Edmiston was terminated on November 8, 2012.

Following her termination, Anderson initiated her lawsuit against Edmiston in New York State court, asserting claims of gender discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment based on gender.

In response to Anderson’s Complaint, Edmiston countered by filing a motion to dismiss, asserting, in part, that Anderson’s Complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to show that Anderson had been subjected to a hostile work environment – and more specifically, that Shepherd’s conduct, as alleged in Anderson’s Complaint, did not amount to “more than petty slights of trivial inconveniences” and were “merely offensive utterances” and did not give rise a claim for hostile work environment.” Anyone buying this defense? Is there any guy out there that thinks that calling a woman the C word just once would be trivial or petty? It is a flat out horrible word that should never be used, let alone by a boss to women in the workplace.

As for the claim for gender discrimination based on hostile work environment, it is well settled that sexual harassment which results in a hostile or abusive work environment constitutes a violation of [employment] laws.

In determining whether a work environment is “hostile,” several factors are considered and include “the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with [the] employee’s work performance.” [Internal citations omitted]. Although a “mild, isolated incident does not make a work environment hostile, the test is whether `the harassment is of such quality or quantity that a reasonable employee would find the conditions of her employment altered for the worse.’“

In applying these factors, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York made short work of the employer’s stupid arguments, holding: “Plaintiff has also adequately alleged a claim for hostile work environment by alleging that her supervisor routinely made deprecatory, vulgar, and offensive remarks about women, including that they were useful only for administrative services and sex (see Salemi v Gloria’s Tribeca, Inc., 115 AD3d 569, 569-570 [1st Dept 2014]; Gaffney v City of New York, 101 AD3d 410, 410 [1st Dept 2012], lv denied 21 NY3d 858 [2013]).”

 

If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your gender or sex, then call the right attorney. It is never appropriate to discriminate against female employees. Discrimination against women includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied a promotion, and denied wages or not receiving equal pay. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040, you will meet with an attorney from The Spitz Law Firm to discuss wrongful discrimination claims and help you determine the best way to pursue your gender/sex discrimination claims.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to gender discrimination 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, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.