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Reeves v. C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., No 07-10270 (11th Cir. Apr. 28, 2008)

| Apr 27, 2008 | Daily Developments in EEO Law |

Wanting to do something about that crude jerk in the carrel next to yours, day-in and day-out listening to sludge on the radio and spitting out obscenities? The Eleventh Circuit may have an answer for you.

In Reeves v. C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., No 07-10270 (11th Cir. Apr. 28, 2008), the court reversed summary judgment for the only woman in a worksite who had to put up with such behavior on a daily basis for nearly three years.  According to the summary judgment record, her neighbors listened to “sexually explicit radio programming playing on a daily basis” and routinely called women all of the nasty anatomical terms known to popular culture. 

The shop was also permeated with sex-talk, including “(1) ‘getting off’ in reference to masturbation, [id. at 1], (2) a song that referenced ‘women’s teeth on a man’s dick,’ [id.], and (3) an experience in a hotel with naked women, [id. at 1-2]. On the day before this co-worker’s last day at the office, moreover, Reeves was told that she should bring earplugs to work the next day because the co-worker had said that he could behave however he wanted on his last day. [Id. at 1]. Reeves testified that the co-worker’s last day ‘was just like any other day: full of sexually offensive remarks, comments, stories, conversation, language-just like any other day . . . .'”  The manager also joined in the behavior and was insensitive to her complaints.

The Eleventh Circuit reversed the holding of the district court that generalized conduct not directed at a particular woman could not constitute harassment based on sex:  “The language in the CHRW office included the “sex specific” words ‘bitch,’ ‘whore,’ and ‘cunt’ that, under [our case law], may be more degrading to women than men. The subject matter of the conversations and jokes that allegedly permeated the office on a daily basis included male and female sexual anatomy, masturbation, and female pornography, all of which was discussed in a manner that was similarly more degrading to women than men. The radio programming that Reeves claims was also similar. Therefore, even if such language was used indiscriminately in the office such that men and women were equally exposed to the language, the language had a discriminatory effect on Reeves because of its degrading nature.”

Moreover, on the record presented the constant barrage did affect terms and conditions of Reeves’ employment.  “Reeves testified that the conduct made it difficult to concentrate on work and caused her to leave the pod and stand in the hallway. She claims that she started to shake when she saw the pornographic image on her co-worker’s computer. She also often took time away from her work to complain to her superiors, ask her co-workers to stop, or write notes to herself so she would have a record of some of the more offensive incidents.”

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