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EEOC: Sexual Harassment Cases and Results

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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.

Schools

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.

Non-Profit Corporations

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.

Problems In First Grade?

Problems In First Grade?

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.

Non-Profit Violations

Legal actions based on EEO violations were dismissed in this rather extreme case.

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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

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court

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:

  1. sexual harassment,
  2. failure to take reasonable steps to prevent and correct discrimination, and
  3. 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.