Are Employees Protected From A Supervisor’s Sexual Behavior After Ending A Consensual Relationship?
Through their decades of experience representing sexual harassment victims, our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion County, Florida know that a common employment law myth is that employees are not protected from sexual harassment from a supervisor with whom they have had a consensual sexual relationship. An employment law myth perpetuated by employers who routinely argue that any sexual behavior an employee endures after ending a consensual sexual relationship with a supervisor is neither unwanted nor unwelcome. In other words, according to employers, employees who enter into a consensual sexual relationship with a supervisor are required to endure sexual advances, verbal conduct of a sexual nature, and physical conduct of a sexual nature from the supervisor even after they terminate the consensual sexual relationship.
In disingenuously perpetuating this employment law myth, employers refuse to acknowledge that the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark sexual harassment decision in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), where the Court ruled that sexual harassment was prohibited by federal employment discrimination law, involved an alleged consensual sexual relationship. In that case, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the employee’s sexual harassment claim and found that the trial court erred in ruling that the employee’s sexual harassment claim failed as a matter of law because she allegedly engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a supervisor. As they routinely do when applicable precedent undermines their employment law myths, employers simply pretend such precedent does not exist and hope they can persuade employer-friendly judges into adopting their fanciful takes on employment discrimination law.
In this article, our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion County, Florida explain how the decision in Howard v. Leslie’s Poolmart, Inc., Case No. 22-cv-418 (D. Conn. Aug. 16, 2023) demonstrates that employees do not lose their protection from sexual harassment when they enter into a consensual sexual relationship with a supervisor.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
In that case, a woman named Howard brought a sexual harassment claim against her former employer, Leslie’s Poolmart, Inc. (“Leslie’s”), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Title VII protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. To violate Title VII, sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment. Howard contends that she was sexually harassed in violation of Title VII.
In December 2017, Howard began working for Leslie’s as an Assistant Manager. While serving in that position, Howard began a sexual relationship with a Store Manager. Howard terminated the sexual relationship around the end of May 2020. Howard alleges that, approximately two months after the end of that relationship, she was subjected to unwanted sexually harassing behavior by the Store Manager. Howard claims that the Store Manager “would offer Howard his assistance with a work-related task in exchange for sexual favors,” and that she would be ignored and treated with hostility when trying to interact with other employees.
Howard alleges that, on July 11, 2020, she contacted the Store Manager to “clear the air,” but the Store Manager was “verbally aggressive towards” her on the call. Following the call, Howard alleges that she contacted her District Manager and informed her of the Store Manager’s behavior. Howard told the District Manager that she intended to reach out to Human Resources (“HR”) and that she did not feel comfortable returning to work until HR was involved.
On July 13, 2020, HR contacted Howard. Howard explained her previous relationship with the Store Manager, the alleged harassment she was enduring, and the impact the situation was having on her job performance. The next day, HR allegedly informed Howard that that there was nothing HR could do about the situation, and that Howard was expected to appear for her next shift regardless of her discomfort from recent events. Howard maintains that when she advised HR that she was uncomfortable returning to work until the matter was resolved, HR threatened to hang up the phone and insisted the Howard return to work. Later that same day, Howard gave HR her verbal resignation. The Store Manager left Leslie’s about a month after Howard.
Protection From Unwanted Sexual Harassment
Leslie’s filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Howard’s sexual harassment claim. In denying Leslie’s motion for dismissal, the trial court addressed the issue of whether Howard was protected from sexual harassment after she terminated the consensual sexual relationship with the Store Manager. The trial court observed that Howard alleges that “once she ceased having sex” with the Store Manager,” the Store Manager refused to cooperate with her on work-related matters” and “conditioned further work-related cooperation on [Howard] having sex with him.” The trial court also pointed out that after she complained about the alleged unwanted sexual harassment from the Store Manager, Howard “was informed by HR that there was nothing further to be done to rectify her situation.” Based on these allegations, the trial court found that Howard had established that she “was harassed continuously and in a manner that a reasonable employee would find the conditions of her employment altered for the worse.” Thus, the trial court concluded that Howard has adequately alleged that “she suffered a [sexually] hostile work environment” in violation of Title VII.
Free Consultation For Harassment Victims
One of the most critical decisions sexual harassment victims must make is which sexual harassment attorneys to consult with regarding their rights and remedies under employment discrimination law. As part of our commitment to helping sexual harassment victims, an experienced sexual harassment attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our employment discrimination attorneys regarding your rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.
Marion County Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our sexual harassment attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of sexual harassment victims. If you have been sexually harassed at work or have questions about your protection from sexual harassment under employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.