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Can I Block My Termination By Alleging Sexual Harassment? I Need A Lawyer!

| Oct 26, 2015 | Employment Discrimination, Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio Sexual Harassment Attorney Answer: Can my boss fire me from my job for sexual harassment if I am also being sexually harassed? What if there are certain sexually-charged games occurring in the workplace and I object? What can I do if sexual innuendo is being used at work and I am uncomfortable?

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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 and the best step you can take if you are exposed to a sexually hostile work environment or wrongfully terminated for refusing your boss sex is to contact an experienced employment attorney.

A question that our employment lawyers often get at The Spitz Law Firm is what happens if there is a sexually charged atmosphere at work and an employee that is contemplating filing a lawsuit for sexual harassment participates in the sexually charged environment? This question is a bit different than what actually constitutes sexual harassment, which has been covered extensively on this employment lawyer’s sex harassment blog. (Check out: What Can I Do About Pornography At Work? Best Sex Harassment Lawyer Reply!; Is It Sexual Harassment If My Boss Talks About My Cleavage? Top Attorney Reply!; Can I Sue If My Boss Texted Me That I Have To Have Sex With Him! I Need A Lawyer!; Sex Harassment Lawyer Best Answers: Can A Promiscuous Woman Still File Sexual Harassment Claims?). Dealing with sexually charged work environments is a difficult issue that depends on numerous factors, however, the First Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled on a case that dealt with a potential sexual harassment offender also claiming that he was sexually harassed. In Vladamir Perez v. Horizon Lines, Inc., et al., Perez was a former employee of Horizon who claimed that he was wrongfully terminated as a result of sexual harassment he experienced.

Unfortunately for Perez, he had a problem. Horizon investigated Perez’s claims of sexual harassment and concluded that Perez had taken photographs of his genitals at work, which is generally a bad thing to do. (Although, many employees face the demands from supervisors to take naked pictures and caving to those demands would not hurt an employee’s sexual harassment claim). Horizon got further reports from its employees that Perez regularly exposed himself to co-workers, which always very bad. Interestingly, the Horizon employees described “a general atmosphere of sexually-charged horseplay among Horizon’s employees, in which Perez participated.” Perez’s actions at work, if true, would pose a serious issue for his sexual harassment claim.

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On the other hand, Perez had some interesting claims of his own. Perez testified that he faced numerous incidents of sexual harassment from Horizon’s HR Manager for Puerto Rico, Grace Acevedo. Perez claimed that on two occasions in 2006 and 2007, Acevedo urged Perez to dance with her at the Horizon Christmas party, going so far as to pull Perez by the arm onto the dance floor. Perez claimed that this behavior made him feel uncomfortable and he rejected her advanced. Perez also claimed that at a bar after work, Acevedo put Perez’s car keys in her pants and told him he would have to go to her house to retrieve them.

Perez then made some claims which would definitely be considered “odd.” Perez testified that Acevedo required him to attend a “sea shell reading” in her office which involved Acevedo predicting Perez’s future life events based on the way shell landed on a straw mat. Lastly, Perez claimed that Acevedo made weekly requests that Perez bring in cornbread and pastries to her office and that Acevedo requested that the food be “hot.” Perez perceived these requests for food as an appeal for sexual favors.

Certainly the first two of Perez’s claims, the Christmas party behavior and the hiding of Perez’s car keys could constitute sexual harassment. The last two claims, the sea shell reading and request for food, probably did not constitute sexual harassment, but are probably both actions that are wholly inappropriate in the workplace (no offense to those who believe in sea shell readings, but rather a reflection of not requiring an employee to participate in any activity that could be considered a religious activity).

However, the appellate court did not agree with Perez and sided with Horizon on Perez’s sexual harassment claims. The Court held that the cornbread/pastry incident and other incidents were too remote to Perez’s termination to constitute sexual harassment and that Horizon was justified in terminating Perez due to the photo of Perez’s genitals taken in the workplace and Perez exposing his genitals to other employees:

And, although Pérez now claims that Acevedo asked him to deliver the cornbread, Pérez plainly conceded at multiple points during his deposition that he never once delivered them and sent López instead. Because the cornbread request was not even directed at Pérez, no reasonable jury could conclude that he has established that those requests constituted an implicit demand for sexual favors that he could have been punished for rebuffing. To the extent that Pérez seeks to rely only on the much earlier incidents of alleged harassment standing on their own, we find those events far too remote to support his quid pro quo theory.2 Accordingly, that theory fails.

Bottom line, participating in a sexual charged or “horseplay” environment does not bar you from later bringing a sexual harassment claim. However, evidence of an employee taking part in that environment can be used against that employee if they later bring a claim of sexual harassment. Either way, the law still allows you to later oppose sexually harassing conduct no matter if you previously participated in similar conduct.

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 (216) 291-4744 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.