A recent lawsuit filed in California state court against The Oprah Winfrey Network sheds light on pregnancy and leave discrimination issues in the workplace.
After a jury found that Defendant KarenKim, Inc. ("KarenKim") had subjected a class of female employees to a sexually hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New York State Law, the EEOC moved to alter the judgment to impose broad injunctive relief against KarenKim to ensure that the pervasive sexual harassment that had occurred would not continue which included barring the re-hire of the sexual harasser, Allen Manwaring. The district court denied the EEOC's request in its entirety and the EEOC appealed. The Second Circuit found that such injunctive relief was necessary to address the "cognizable danger" of an employer "engaging in 'recurrent violations' of Title VII."
The Tenth Circuit issues two decisions today, both involving the EEOC - in different capacities. In the first, the court splits 2-1 on an ADA reasonable accommodation and retaliation case brought by the Commission itself, holding that a photography studio was not required to accommodate a deaf photographer by providing an ASL signer. In the second, in which the EEOC appeared as amicus, the court affirms summary judgment on a sex harassment claim but reverses on a retaliation claim.
The employer's affirmative defense to sexual harassment claims - recognized by the Supreme Court in Faragher v. Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998), and Burlington Indus. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998) - does not apply if a supervisor's harassment culminates in a "tangible employment action," defined as a significant adverse change in employment status. In a rare court of appeals opinion presenting this issue, the Fourth Circuit reverses summary judgment and holds that to compel an employee either to sign a severance agreement or be fired may constitute such a tangible employment action.
An employee whom a jury had found was the victim of male-on-male harassment in the workplace wins back his $500,000 Title VII jury verdict on appeal, where the Fifth Circuit holds that the district court erred in finding post-trial that the harassment was not severe or pervasive as a matter of law.
Suing your boss is just about the most stressful thing you can do, especially when you are claiming sexual harassment. Once you make such a claim, you can be sure your employer will say one of two things: either he will claim that nothing inappropriate ever happened, and Therefore you are delusional, or he will admit that something happened, but, whatever it was, it was either trivial or consensual (or both) and so you are a liar and a slut.
Recently, one of the women who have accused Herman Cain of making inappropriate sexual advances said (through her attorney) she did not want to identify herself publicly because she did not want to become "another Anita Hill." What does it mean to "be Anita Hill." Professor Hill's story is in many ways a story of perseverance over the expectations of her time about the role of women in the workplace. Then, and still now, coming forward and alleging harassment often requires speaking truth to power. Yet, as Cain's accuser's reluctance suggests, it also a choice not live in anonymity and to invite controversy and potential ridicule.
Herman Cain, a leading candidate in the primaries for the Republican nominee for president, confirmed today that he had been the subject of sexual harassment allegations while serving as the head of the National Restaurant Association. Coming in the wake of the twentieth anniversary of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, the charges against Mr. Cain remind us how ever-present sexual harassment is in the workplace.
On October 15, 2011, twenty years after Clarence Thomas's confirmation to the Supreme Court, Hunter College held a conference with over 1,000 attendees honoring Anita Hill's courage during the confirmation hearings. The conference was co-hosted by Outten & Golden's own Kathleen Peratis and activist Letty Pogrebin. The inspiration for the conference arose, Professor Hill revealed, in part by a phone message just months earlier from Clarence Thomas's wife asking Professor Hill to apologize to Clarence Thomas for her testimony. After that call made national news, the public outcry demonstrated how strongly people still felt about the hearings today-a fact that the packed audience at Hunter College confirmed to be true. Remarkably, the audience consisted of men and women of all ages and races. It was a true testament that Anita Hill's legacy has and continues to impact generations of civil rights advocates.
Outten & Golden was horned to host Professor Anita Hill on October 12th at our office. Professor Hill discussed both her role in the evolution of raising awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace since the Thomas hearings twenty years ago, as well as the mes in her new book Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home (Beacon Press, 2011).