EEOC: Sexual Harassment Cases and Results
EEOC Regulations and Violations
Sexual harassment is illegal in the United States and other nations, but it is sometimes difficult to prove. Stringent, consistent documentation is required from day one of its inception in order to prove a strong case and to gain a conviction if the case goes to trial.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the governmental agency that handles regulations concerning sexual harassment in the workplace.
Every new hire in a new job should begin a work journal to use as a case for proving one's deserving of a raise and promotion, and this journal could also record evidence of sexual harassment. The employee may not realize that it exists until he or she reviews the journal weekly and monthly and notes patterns of behaviors. It's the best proactive action for job advancement and best defensive action in case of harassment.
In Ohio from 1990–2010, several cases of sexual harassment in public schools and non-profit organizations were prosecuted with the result that the perpetrator, if a teacher and even if harassment was between two teachers or an administrator and a teacher, lost licenses and was barred from teaching. Violators were required to register as sex offenders.
Many Ohio public school systems have anti-sexual harassment policies and regular awareness/prevention training in place, including deep background checks for personnel.
However, not all potential perpetrators are eliminated or deterred. My opinion is that these school systems do a high-quality job, but cannot catch all possible perpetrators before harassment occurs. The school systems are proactive overall, in my opinion.
In the non-school non-profit sector in the same state during the same 20 years, perpetrators have been fired and sometimes required to register as sex offenders, depending on the case. Additional, anti-sexual harassment training has been provided by the state to these organizations, some of which had never instituted such training on their own initiative in the past. That, of course, proved unwise. Non-profits have become more proactive in this state over the last 20 years.
One caveat to proactive status is the fact that several lawsuits involving allegations of sexual harassment in churches and other non-profits in Ohio have been settled out of court with the agreement that none of the parties discuss the case or the settlement moneys and amounts. It is difficult to determine whether these organizations have instituted more effective programs of sexual harassment prevention and address.
An Overzealous K-5 School
In 2006, a 6-year-old first grader from the town of Brockton, Massachusetts, touched a girl in his class. This propelled chaos into a city bill for $50,000 in legal fees and about $250,000 in city insurance payouts (Reference: enterprisenews.com/news/cops_and_courts ).
The boy was accused of sexual harassment of a female classmate via his touching her skin inside the waistband of her trousers. He was suspended for three days.
After the dust settled and countermeasures were pressed, the boy himself will receive $160,000 beginning in October of 2017, on top of $20,000 awarded to his parents.
The settlement included new sexual harassment training for school principals in Brockton. Thus, Brockton schools became more proactive after this case.
Legal actions based on EEO violations were dismissed in this rather extreme case.
A large Midwest non-profit employed a dozen staff people at one location, including a project manager, two clerical workers, and nine operations persons. No sexual harassment policy or training was in place, despite EEO regulations regarding such harassment. This was unwise.
In one particular case, harassment was used by one senior operations person as a bullying technique to cover ineptitude and absence-without-leave, while gaining power in the office.
Complaints were filed at the local office and in HR, but were dismissed. The staff was instructed to file no more complaints and was administered sensitivity training. However, further violations occurred, escalating after a year into a food fight and then a fist fight between a man and a woman. Legal actions were dismissed.
Because a major federal grant soon expired, the guilty parties were laid off instead of prosecuted. The organization closed within a few years, but staff were consistently uneasy at work.
Federal Guidelines Site for Harassment Prevention
For-Profit Case Example: FedEx
Santa Clara County, February 2005
In February 2005, $2 million in punitive damages was awarded by a jury in Santa Clara County, California, to two women victimized by sexual harassment via a male employee of Federal Express Corp. In the first phase of the trial, the jury found:
- sexual harassment,
- failure to take reasonable steps to prevent and correct discrimination, and
- intentional infliction of emotional stress.
The two plaintiffs were awarded compensatory damages of $328,000. The results of the second phase awarded punitive damages of $1 million each.
Harassment involved stalking and intimidation related to fruitless and escalating attempts to date one of the women and the belief that the second woman was interfering with that process.
Oakland-Stockton Area, April 2007
In the Oakland-Stockton area of California, a woman successfully sued FedEx (reference: www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_5667745) to an award of $3 million for sexual harassment, although the company appealed the decision.
In 2002, the rather long-term female employee of the Oakland FedEx offices, filed an official complaint against Federal Express for, specifically, "sexual harassment, retaliation and constructive discharge." A male supervisor allegedly had been kissing and hugging her against her wishes from 1999–2001.
The target (victim) stated that because she refused sexual advances, her pay was held back, personal leave was turned down, and work shifts were inconveniently changed. She quit and filed suit under the Civil Rights Act and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act; being awarded $550,000 in compensatory damages and $2.4 million in punitive damages.
FedEx appealed. US District Judge Susan Illston cut the $2.45 million to $300,000 under federal caps regulations. However, in mid-June 2010, Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco granted the plaintiff a new trial for punitive damages under California law, which stipulates no cap.
FedEx's Official Stance
The company website presents information in its Careers sections about company dedication to diversity of all types, which suggests a proactive anti-sexual harassment policy and training program. However, lawsuits have continued to arise over sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd's Resignation
Famous people in public and private sectors have been exposed in the media as having applied possible sexual harassment techniques to other workers. These include Justice Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Navy (Tailhook Conventions), David Letterman, Bill Clinton, and Hewlett-Packard's Mark Hurd.
However, sexual harassment news has extended into the nation's schoolrooms as well, where a number of female teachers have engaged in sex with middle school boys (although male teachers and female students and other combinations have been found and tried).
The 2010 case of sexual harassment allegations in HP was found comparatively quickly, dug out by research into other allegations spanning activities from 2007-2009. Thus, it seems HP may be more proactive in this arena than some other companies.
On August 6, 2010, the Hewlett-Packard CEO and President, Mark Hurd, resigned. The prompt for his resignation was an internal investigation into a charge of sexual harassment against Hurd and HP by a former female contractor.
No sexual harassment was found, but the charge opened up an investigation that found that Mr. Hurd had filed false expense reports related to the woman contractor. Thus, sexual harassment was, so to speak, still punished by proxy through the forced resignation.
These harassment cases often uncover other crimes or ethics violations that are punished, even if the harassment itself is not. This is similar to Al Capone's conviction on tax evasion when his racketeering and other crimes could not be upheld.
Still, HP reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, that Hurd would receive severance package of $12.2 million and retain ability until September 7th to exercise an option to purchase 775,000 Hewlitt-Packard shares.
Hurd would also continue to be covered by HP medical and dental coverage for up to 18 months. Some reports state that Hurd will receive nearly $30 million in severance total.
Is this actual punishment and will it deter further behaviors leading to charges of sexual harassment at HP? This is the question in a number of sexual and other harassment/discrimination cases in America.
Five individuals are already on the docket for consideration for Mr. Hurd's replacement and one of them is a woman, Anne Livermore. She has one of the longest careers with HP (28 years) and the responsibilities of her position as Executive Vice President of an HP "$54 billion enterprise business."
If she receives the CEO job the image of HP may heighten to overshadow the sexual discrimination found with Byrd, but this woman's qualification match those of the four men on the palette of potentials.
Placing a woman in the CEO position without the appropriate background and skills would be a major mistake for HP. Finally, if one of the men is chosen, I feel that HP can justify the decision on solid ground.
Coca-Cola's EEOC Case
- Coca-Cola Bottling pays $35,000 to Settle EEOC Suit
Coca-Cola Bottling Of Mobile to Pay $35,000 to Settle EEOC Sex Discrimination Suit
Finding a Proactive Company
Many companies list a dedication to diversity on their websites, but a closer look may reveal weaknesses in complying with all anti-discrimination policies and enforcement of EEO regulations.
In employment interviews, a candidate may ask what type of sexual harassment or diversity training is available at the company for its workers and according to what schedule of administration. This training is best done at the beginning of employment and regularly thereafter according to some schedule as part of ongoing professional development.
Online searches about specific companies may reveal past sexual harassment and other discrimination legal actions. Law libraries may be of help as well. To my knowledge there is not yet a list of most proactive anti-sexual harassment companies.
However, a national registry of harassers and abusers in the workplace is in discussion and has the potential to be misused in retaliation by disgruntled workers. A national directory of proactive bosses might be nice, however.
Use With Caution
- eBossWatch National Sexual Harassment Registry
The eBossWatch National Sexual Harassment Registry will help you avoid bad bosses and hostile workplaces.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2010 Patty Inglish MS