Violations Of Harassment Laws Across The Gamut Are Expensive; No One Is Immune

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also practices that have the effect of discriminating against individuals because of their race, color, national origin, religion, or sex. It doesn't care whether you're a large business or a small business; all it cares about is equal treatment for all. This article addresses sexual harassment more than other forms of harassment because health care is one of the few industries that has a very high number of women working in prominent positions, as well as other positions within both physician's offices and other health care facilities.

Title VII's broad prohibitions against sex discrimination specifically cover:

* Sexual Harassment – This includes practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender, including same sex harassment.

* Pregnancy Based Discrimination – Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions much be treated in the same way as other temporary illnesses or conditions

* Equal Pay Act – The EPA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits, where men and women perform work of similar skill, effort and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions.

Note that employers may not reduce wages of either sex to equalize pay between men and women. A violation of the EPA may occur where a different wage was/is paid to a person who worked in the same job before or after an employee of the opposite sex. A violation may also occur where a labor union causes the employer to violate the law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 authorizes compensatory and punitive damages in cases of intentional discrimination, and provides for obtaining attorneys fees and the possibility of jury trials. It also directs the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to expand its technical assistance and outreach activities

It is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:

* Hiring and firing
* Compensation, assignment, or classification of employees
* Transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall
* Job advertisements
* Recruitment
* Testing
* Use of company facilities
* Training and apprenticeship programs
* Fringe benefits
* Pay, retirement plans, and disability leave

Remedies that may occur when discrimination are found include:

* Back pay
* Hiring
* Promotion
* Reinstatement
* Front pay
* Reasonable accommodation
* Other actions that will make an individual "whole" (in the condition she/he would have been but for the discrimination

Remedies also may include payment of:

* Attorney fees
* Expert witness fees
* Court costs

If anyone thinks the government doesn't take this type of thing seriously, consider the examples below and ask yourself if you feel confident in your organization's practices of fairness towards women:

1. Kodak: Agreed to pay about $13 million in retroactive and current pay raises to 2,000 female and minority employees in New York and Colorado. Individual employees had complained about pay raises, which Kodak bases on performance, claiming there was either racism or sexism in determining such raises.

2. Ford: Sued for $50 million by a factory worker claiming sexual harassment on several occasions by a supervisor despite complaints to her managers.

3. TWA: Agreed to a $2.6 million dollar settlement of a lawsuit filed on behalf of nine female employees who complained of suffering sexual harassment from their supervisors.

4. W. R. Grace & Company: W. R. Grace & Company had to pay $850,000 to settle a lawsuit in which the EEOC charged managers at a food processing plant with egregious sexual harassment of 22 female workers from Central America.

6.Ralphs Super Market: There was a $30 million judgment against Ralphs Super Market chain in southern California because of the behavior of one store manager against 6 female employees.

7. City of Seattle: The city of Seattle agreed to pay a former Seattle Policewoman $225,000 as settlement of her federal lawsuit. The officer alleged that her supervisor and two officers sexually harassed her and that the department superiors tried to force her out of the department because she reported it. The settlement agreement means that neither the city nor the officers admit any wrongdoing. However, Scott Blankenship, Seattle-based attorney for the woman said the lawsuit succeeded in changing some of the ways the department handles sexual harassment allegations.

8. Pizza Hut: A federal district court ruled that a female manager of a Pizza Hut could proceed with retaliation and sex discrimination claims against the franchise under Title VII and Iowa state law. The woman was fired shortly after complaining of sexual harassment by a non-employee who was a safety inspector. An independent contractor, in the position of a safety inspector, allegedly repeatedly touched the woman while performing a safety audit of the restaurant, despite her requests that he stop the touching. The woman reported the behavior to her supervisor and he told her he would contact the Human Resources department.

9. Quantock v. Shared Marketing Servs., Inc: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a company president's conduct in propositioning a subordinate three times during one meeting was severe enough to establish an actionable hostile environment claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, even though the behavior was not necessarily pervasive. The case was Quantock v. Shared Marketing Servs., Inc. The woman was working as an account supervisor at a marketing firm when she met with the company president to discuss a client meeting later that day. During the meeting, the president allegedly propositioned her three times for sex.

10. Raytheon: A female custodian at Raytheon claimed that the company ignored repeated complaints about men who would drop their pants in front of her while she cleaned bathrooms at the defense firm's plant in Waltham. The woman filed a $5 million sexual harassment suit in federal court. The lawsuit said the woman has tried to commit suicide twice and that supervisors repeatedly discounted her claims of inappropriate conduct by co-workers, telling her to "deal with it," and punishing her for complaining by assigning her to clean only men's bathrooms.

11. Morrell & Co: A former employee of the Morrell & Co. meat company was awarded $1.5 million by a federal jury in Sioux City, Iowa, who found that the woman was subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation. Rita Baker alleged that she was sexually harassed by at least three male co-workers over a five-year period and that this caused her medical problems, including depression. She said her supervisors did nothing about her complaints. The company claimed the women never complained about harassment. It said that a co-worker may have used loud and abusive language toward her, but that he used loud and abusive language toward everyone.

12. Woman Says Amex Ignored Complaint: A Queens, New York woman who says she was the first black female trader at the American Stock Exchange filed a lawsuit claiming that the exchange did nothing when she complained of sexual harassment. The woman claims a male trader blew in her ear, made lewd jokes and sexual advances on numerous occasions beginning in March 2000, only a year after she started at the exchange. She says that when she complained to the Amex's management, she was told that "nothing could be done to help because the floor resembled "Peyton Place," a reference to the 1960s television soap opera famous for its sex scandals."

13. Sandra Banack was awarded $75,000 in damages and her attorney was awarded an additional $236,804 in fees for a sexual harassment suit brought against Cal State University at Fullerton. No sexual touching or language was alleged: no one lost a job or salary. Rather, the university was found guilty of reprimanding Banack about a possible trespass upon private property and violation of a permit from the Department of Fish and Game during a class field trip. The reprimand was judged to have been both unfounded and directed at Banack because she is a woman. Thus, CSUF was ordered to pay approximately $312,000.

14. Electric Boat. A federal jury awarded a Glastonbury woman $750,000 in a sexual-harassment lawsuit, ruling the company failed to take "prompt, remedial action" against the conduct by her male co-workers on a nuclear project in Windsor.

Everyone in a position of authority needs to know the law, and everyone needs to have a copy of what the laws are that protect women, and everyone else, based on discrimination issues. Make sure your business isn't the next one in the newspaper being cited for harassment.