Sterling Jewelers, Inc., the parent company of Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers, is facing explosive allegations - and a national class action lawsuit - alleging its "boys club" culture discriminated against women and encouraged sexual harassment. Hundreds of women have joined the lawsuit.
Even just a passing glance at news headlines over the last few months reveals a troubling pattern: companies turning a blind eye when men who are important to the bottom line are accused of sexual harassment.
The U.S. trucking industry is a paradox. With a growing shortage of drivers, trucking companies desperately need to put more people behind the wheel. At the same time, an increasing number of women are looking to enter the industry, eager for the opportunity. Instead of being welcomed, however, many encounter a hostile work environment, including egregious sexual harassment.
The existence of a formal anti-harassment policy in the workplace does not guarantee results for the employer if it does not do the important work of publicizing and training on the policy. The Fifth Circuit reverses summary judgment (in part) owing to a factual dispute about whether a school board did what it needed to do to make its policy a reality. It's an important case on the application of the first prong of the Faragher-Ellerth defense against supervisor-harassment liability.
We have learned a lot in the few short days since Gretchen Carlson, former Fox News anchor, filed her lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Fox CEO Roger Ailes. While the allegations underlying the lawsuit may not be particularly surprising to anyone who knew anything about Ailes or the culture of Fox News, the fact that a lawsuit was filed, and the way it was filed, demonstrates remarkable legal ingenuity and personal bravery. The Carlson lawsuit underscores just how high the chips are stacked against women coming forward to report harassment and discrimination, but also may give us a roadmap to even those odds.
Challenges for women working in tech are very real. Though the pay gap may be less in the tech industry than other sectors (the New York Times reported that women in tech earn 89 cents for every dollar earned by men - as compared with the American average of 79 cents on the dollar), women in tech are by no means better off.
The Sixth Circuit affirms a $300,000 judgment for the male victim of same-sex harassment under Title VII. The panel underscores the imperative for employers to be vigilant against complaints of sexual contact, even when the conduct (in a male-dominated workplace) might be characterized by some as "horseplay."
Outten & Golden LLP associate Nina Frank discusses the ways women are blamed and marginalized at work for everything from the way they talk to the way they dress. Ms. Frank suggests that women are harassed, ignored, and underpaid not because of any action or omission on their part, but as a result of a sexist system that touts its progress but has not initiated much meaningful change. For the full text of the article, click here.
The Sixth Circuit chalks up a big win for the EEOC, affirming a jury verdict for four employees awarding compensatory and punitive damages totaling over $1.5 million. The court upholds the rule that telling a sexually-harassing supervisor to cut-it-out is protected "opposition" activity under Title VII, and will support a claim for retaliation. The opinion also highlights the kind of trouble employers can get into when they fail to treat temporary employees as a full-fledged part of the workforce.
Closing out the year, here's a valuable reminder from the Fourth Circuit that the decision of whether an employee has objectively suffered severe or pervasive harassment belongs to the jury, not the district court judge. The panel reverses summary judgment, on facts that the opinion recognizes are "close to the line," recognizing that important judgment calls on fact-finding and credibility cannot be resolved without a trial.