Being the subject of malicious gossip or innuendo in the workplace can sabotage your relationships with coworkers and impede your career prospects. But can this behavior actually rise to the level of a hostile work environment under the law and provide the basis for a sexual harassment claim? According to several cases from around the country, the answer is yes - if adequately supported, evidence of rumors, innuendo, and gossip can demonstrate actionable gender-based discrimination.
Although it is a commonplace that employers do not violate Title VII simply by shortcutting their own internal disciplinary systems, that is not necessarily the case if the disciplinary proceeding itself is motivated in part by gender or racial stereotypes. Today, the Second Circuit holds that a coach stated a plausible claim that his employer relied on "invidious stereotypes and credit[ed] malicious accusations" while investigating a Title IX harassment complaint filed against him by a student.
Sex harassment is often conflated with sexual misconduct, yet belittlement of and failure to cooperate with women at work - no less than sexual comments or physical grabbing - violates their rights as well. The First Circuit sends such a case back for trial, also addressing when a non-employer may be liable for retaliation.
You may know that federal law prohibits an employer or prospective employer from treating an employee or prospective employee differently because she is pregnant. But can an employer maintain a list of employees it knows to be pregnant? As with many other issues in employment law, the permissibility of such a practice likely depends on the circumstances, the intent, and the manner in which the list is maintained and distributed.
Here's a valuable case for employees suffering harassment (and lawyers who bring such cases). The First Circuit reverses summary judgment for age-based and retaliatory hostile work environment, holding that the district court put the plaintiff to an impossible standard of specificity to prove individual incidents of harassment. It also holds that repeated threats of termination can constitute constructive discharge.
Title VII sex harassment law has persisted over the decades to place the onus on the victim to report the violation through the employer's anti-harassment policy, and - failing in that step - most courts find no employer liability. But the Third Circuit today issues an opinion that takes a step away from that stance, holding that there can be a genuine dispute about liability for supervisor harassment even when there was no complaint to the employer at all.
The Fifth Circuit vacates and remands summary judgment in a Title VII case, holding that the record presents a genuine dispute of material fact whether an assisted living facility took reasonable precautions to prevent a resident from sexually harassing a nurse, and also whether she was retaliated against when--as a self-protective measure--she refused to attend the harasser.
Can a boss's repeated offer of a "big bonus" to a woman employee as an inducement to date an important customer constitute quid pro quo sexual harassment? The Fifth Circuit today holds that it can ... but also holds (2-1) that the plaintiff failed to present a genuine dispute that she was entitled to such a bonus in the first place.
Although Doug Jones' victory over Roy Moore in Alabama last week was by the smallest of margins (Jones won by just 0.5 percent), we can view this as part of a turning tide for American working women, for women professionals, political leaders, social leaders and the great mass of female American employees who turn the cogs of our economy.
Given recent headlines about Uber and Google, it might be tempting to assume that tech is the only sector still facing stubborn problems with gender discrimination, hostile work environments, and sexual harassment. That certainly isn't the case, and one only has to look at the financial services industry to see that the issue is very prevalent in many other workplaces.