Best Ohio Wrongful Termination Lawyer Reply: I’m a manager, can I be fired in retaliation for reporting someone else getting sexually harassed at work? What if I get fired because I reported sexual harassment? I followed protocol and “reported up the chain of command” and now I don’t have a job; can I sue for wrongful termination or retaliation?
As a well-respected employment law attorney, I would like to consider myself an informed citizen. I like to read the news every day to stay informed. Sometimes I like what I read, often, I don’t. But nevertheless, it’s still important to read the news. As an attorney, reading the news is an important part of my job. Our clients count on our lawyers to be ahead of the latest breaking employment laws or developments. Lucky for me, many of the latest legal developments are usually connected with very interesting news stories. If you don’t believe me, Google, “Employment Discrimination News.” There are some really crazy stories out there about race/color, religion, gender/sex, national origin, age, and disability discrimination.
This morning, like many other mornings, my search was not disappointing. I stumbled across a particularly interesting Complaint. The former pastry chef of Mar-A-Lago Club, Graham Randall, is suing the club and some of their top managers for retaliation and whistle blowing. Randall was the Executive Pastry Chef at Mar-A-Lago for 5 years. During that time, he was an excellent employee, earning high praise and great feedback on reviews from both his subordinates and his supervisors. Randall was on top of the world. In late 2017, one of his young pastry chefs complained to Randall that a supervisor from another department was sending her sexually explicit text messages and making unwanted sexual advancements at work. Appalled by this behavior, Randall took immediate action. Randall reported the supervisor to Mar-A-Lago’s Human Resources Department with the recommendation that HR open an investigation into the supervisor immediately. (Yay Randall!)
[Side note: I left out the names of the young pastry chefs in this story out of respect for them. They are important actors in this story, but out of respect for the victims, I’ve decided not to use their names.]
The exact same day that Randall was approached by the young pastry chef, another young pastry chef approached Randall about a similar sexual harassment issue by a different boss at Mar-A-Lago. That’s two young pastry chefs, reporting two different supervisors at the Club. Starting to sound like a systemic issue, right? Randall, again, took appropriate action and went straight to Human Resources to report the second manager. Randall said that he was reporting what he believed to be illegal sexual harassment. Randall thought that the two supervisors’ actions were in violation of company policy, and that their behaviors were in violation of law that prohibits sexual harassment in the work place, which is federally addressed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Ohio has comparable sexual harassment laws under R.C. § 4112.02, et. al).
It’s important to keep in mind, that both supervisors Randall reported held higher positions than he did. There are a lot of brave actors in this story that I would like to take a moment to commend. First, the two young pastry chefs, who had the courage to report the sexual harassment in the first place. Our sex harassment attorneys know how difficult that can be. This difficulty is especially true at a place like Mar-A-Lago where they were probably making decent money and had a lot to lose. Second, Randall, the Executive Pastry Chef, who did the right thing. It may seem like common sense, that he, as their supervisor, should report this illegal and disgusting conduct by other bosses and managers to the appropriate company authorities, but that doesn’t always happen. It’s sometimes very intimidating to report others in the work place whom hold higher positions than you. With that being said—on with the story!
The Human Resources Department launched an investigation and ultimately determined that the two supervisors were in violation of company policy and were reprimanded. Both reprimanded supervisors later apologized to Randall, sharing their sympathies with him and actually thanked him for saving their jobs. If this hadn’t been an internal investigation, and was somehow leaked to the press, both would have surely been terminated. Keep in mind, this was less than a year into President Donald Trump’s presidency, so Mar-A-Lago received constant attention.
The two young pastry chefs that initiated the complaint, were suspended from work during the investigation. When the investigation was over, Randall insisted that the two female pastry chefs return to work in their prior work assignments. Randall, aware of the laws and company policies at play, did not “want to be a part of any retaliation claim against Mar-A-Lago.” The two reprimanded supervisors protested, they did not want the pastry chefs to return to work. Take a second to re-read that last sentence. The managers who had sexually harassed other employees were the ones who felt uncomfortable! The hypocrisy of these people is too much. HR permitted the sexual harassment victim pastry chefs to come back to work, despite the supervisors’ protests, and it seemed like life had moved on.
About six months following the conclusion of the investigation, Randall was called into a meeting with Human Resources and the two reprimanded sexually harassing supervisors present. He was immediately terminated at the conclusion of that meeting. Mar-A-Lago stated that the reason they fired Randall was because of seasonal cancellations, they had to “cut back.” This is clearly pre-textual because Mar-A-Lago has, and continues to profit immensely. To make it worse, Mar-A-Lago advertised the need for more staff because they couldn’t keep up with demand. Still worse, this was clearly an up yours to allow the two reprimanded sexually harassing supervisors to waive goodbye during the firing process. These harassers were probably chuckling amongst themselves for getting the last laugh.
So now what? Can Randall sue for reporting sexual harassment? Are men protected under this law too? How can Randall seek justice here?
The answer to all of that is more straight forward than you might think. It’s true, Randall’s termination stems from his involvement with a co-worker’s sexual harassment claim, but really Randall was trying to report illegal activity. The federal law found it Title VII and the Ohio Fair Employment Practice Act expressly make it unlawful for your boss or manager to retaliate against any employee by taking any adverse action because that employee opposed an illegal discriminatory conduct, rules, or practice; reported or filed a complaint regarding discrimination; testified regarding employment discrimination; or participated in any work or other investigation, proceeding, or hearing related to a report of discrimination in the workplace. As our employment discrimination lawyers have previously blogged, these reporting and participating protections equally protect everyone – even those who were not the direct target of the harassment or discrimination (See Can I Be Fired Because I Complained About Discrimination? I Need The Top Lawyer In Ohio To Sue For Wrongful Termination!; Top Employment Lawyer Reply: Can I Be Fired For Reporting Sexual Harassment?; What Should I Do If I Was Fired For Reporting Sexual Harassment?). Indeed, these protections against retaliation can protect farther than just the worker reporting it (See Can I Be Fired If My Father Reported Race Discrimination At Work?). It is important to understand that these protections arise the moment any employee opposes such conduct – even when that is just telling the harassing or discriminating manger or boss to knock it off. (See Can I Sue If I’m Fired For Reporting Discrimination Or Harassment?). And, liability kicks in when the employer takes any type of action that would discourage another employee from reporting or opposing such discrimination or harassment – demotion, refusal of vacation days, being moved to a worse shift or job location, or being given bad reviews all of a sudden. (See What If I’m Given Bad Reviews And Fired After I Reported Race Discrimination).
While this employment blog entry deals with reporting unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace, employees and workers at every level are protected for opposing or participating into investigations discrimination or harassment based on race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability.
Back to the case at issue, because Randall was reporting conduct he believed to be illegal and then was fired for reporting it, he’s protected under “Whistle Blowing“ laws. In a nutshell, whistle blowing laws come into play when an employee discovers illegal activity, during the course of their duties at work, and tries to report that illegal activity, but are fired for reporting it. Randall clearly falls into this category because sexual harassment at work is illegal. As a supervisor, Randall had a duty to report the illegal conduct in the workplace. He followed that duty and then was retaliated against (fired) for doing so.
Randall’s case is brand new, so officially, we don’t know how this case will end. However, if I had to bet, I would bet on Randall getting a nice settlement check out of this case. It’s textbook retaliation and whistle blowing violations, and the pretext here kind of sticks out like a bright, flashing neon sign. Randall had great employment history for five years, and then suddenly, after he reported supervisors he was terminated six months later. Seriously, Mar-A-Lago?! You couldn’t even wait a year to make it seem like there was another legitimate, bona fide reason to terminate Randall?
Thinking about all the different actors in this story really makes me question work place culture. There was not only one employee, but two different employees who were aggressively, sexually harassed at work by two different supervisors. This not only strengthens Randall’s case, but it strengthens the potential cases of future sexual harassment claims from former employees of the Club. There is clearly a culture of harassment and those in power feeling emboldened by the power disparity. In a workplace, there must always be a power disparity—there’s always going to be a boss, manager and/or supervisor and a chain of command. That’s life, that’s how businesses run. However, there’s a major, and much deeper problem when those at the top of command feel like they don’t answer to anyone and can take advantage of those “beneath them.” It’s supervisors like these who need to be checked.
That’s one of the reasons why I’m an employment attorney. Stories like Randall’s and the two pastry chefs don’t sit well with me. Our employment lawyers think the supervisors at Mar-A-Lago deserve much worse than a written reprimand. If true, Mar-A-Lago deserves to pay for condoning this type of behavior and not adequately enforcing their own company policies. If you’re reading this, and you’ve been fired for reporting illegal activity at work, whether that be sexual harassment or otherwise, I truly hope that you’ll consider fighting for your rights. Employers will just keep doing this and covering their own tracks if they aren’t called out. Sure, you might be out of the situation, but there could be future employees that are put in the same position as you because your old company never learned their lesson. I see it all too often, but one of the most rewarding aspects of my profession is witnessing justice at work. Let us fight for you.
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 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. Call our office at 866-797-6040.
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 if I was fired today for reporting sex discrimination”, “I’m being sexually harassed by a supervisor,” “the owner of the company grabbed my boobs,” “my boss is rubbing against me,” “I’ve been wrongfully terminated,” or “how do I sue for being wrongfully fired,” 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.