A case this week that was notable did not involved a federal employee or any administrative ruling by the Merit Systems Protection Board, but we thought it notable in how clearly it highlights some of the common problems that give rise to sexual harassment claims in the employment context.
This case involved a restaurant worker, who had worked for the company about a month when a coworker found explicit nude images of the woman and displayed them to the woman’s coworkers and supervisors. The lawsuit alleges this was done to harass her.
Her distress at this situation increased when she complained about this activity to her supervisors, she discovered that they were also passing around the explicit images. They promised an investigation, but instead, that is when the unlawful retaliation began.
Her hours were cut and they did not investigate the matter. When she asked about the investigation and complained about the cutting of her hours, they fired her.
In a classic maneuver of a retaliatory supervisor, she was blamed as “causing too much tension” in the workplace. No other employees were fired or apparently even disciplined.
The supervisors are no longer with the company and the restaurant is closed.
This is not uncommon behavior when a supervisor has failed to properly supervise their employees. They allow the harassment or other illegal behavior, and when the harassed employee complains, they often dismiss their legitimate concerns, and frequently punish them for complaining about the harassment.
Punishment often includes reduced hours or responsibility, transfer to less attractive duty stations or hours, and may include critical job assessments or other adverse job actions.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “A Textbook Case of Sexual Harassment,” Kevin Lessmiller, March 20, 2014