Can A Harasser’s Sexual Behavior Towards Other Employees Be Used To Prove A Sexual Harassment Case?
Having fought for the rights of sexual harassment victims for more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment lawyers know that sexual harassers generally prey on more than one victim in the workplace. In defending against sexual harassment cases, our Ocala, Florida sexual harassment attorneys have learned, employers invariably argue that a sexual harassment victim cannot rely upon evidence showing that her harasser sexually harassed other women to prove she worked in a sexually hostile work environment. Refusing to acknowledge that a harasser’s sexual behavior towards other female employees is part of the victim’s work environment and contributes to the creation of a hostile working environment, employers disingenuously attempt to persuade courts that such evidence is irrelevant and inadmissible. In this article, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment lawyers explain how the recent decision in Molchan v. Delmar Fire Department, Inc., Case No. 19-082 (D. Del. Dec. 3, 2021) illustrates that sexual harassment victims may rely upon evidence of a harasser’s sexual behavior towards other employees in proving they worked in a sexually hostile work environment.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
In that case, a woman named Molchan brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer, the Delmar Fire Department, Inc. (Delmar FD), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII makes sexual harassment an unlawful discriminatory employment practice. 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. Molchan claims that the Delmar FD violated Title VII by requiring her to work in a sexually hostile work environment.
Molchan alleges that during her employment with the Delmar FD a management-level employee, a man named Rementer, had a history of making “suggestive comments and employing sexual innuendo in conversation” with her and other female Delmar FD employees. On September 8, 2015, Rementer—who was then Fire Chief—and Molchan, along with two other Delmar FD employees, were returning from a meeting when they stopped for lunch. At that lunch, according to Molchan, Rementer placed his hand inside of her thigh. Nearly two years later, on July 30, 2017, Rementer—who was then President and Second Assistant Chief of the Delmar FD—allegedly placed his hand on Molchan’s buttocks while walking behind her. Surveillance video captured the incident.
On August 20, 2017, Molchan made a complaint regarding Rementer to the Delmar FD Employment Committee Chair and the Fire Chief. Rementer was suspended for thirty days or until an investigation into a complaint of “improper conduct” against him concluded. The Delmar FD House Committee (House Committee) investigated Molchan’s complaint. During its investigation, the House Committee questioned Rementer about previous complaints of inappropriate touching by other female FD employees. The Fire Chief confirmed at least one instance of Rementer’s inappropriate touching of another female FD employee. Based on the surveillance footage available, the House Committee concluded that “Rementer had indeed touched Molchan’s buttocks as Molchan had alleged.” The House Committee recommended Rementer’s discharge from the Delmar FD. Rementer resigned as President and Second Assistant Chief. About a month later, however, Rementer was appointed as Engineer, a leadership position within the Delmar FD.
Sexual Behavior Towards Others Is Relevant
The Delmar FD filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Molchan’s sexual harassment claim. In doing so, the Delmar FD maintained that Rementer’s alleged harassing conduct was insufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile working environment in violation of Title VII. To support her claim that she worked in a sexually hostile work environment, Molchan relied upon testimony from other women about having been sexually harassed by Rementer or having witnessed him sexually harassing others. The Delmar FD contended that Molchan could not use evidence that Rementer sexually harassed other women to support her sexual hostile work environment claim. Whether Molchan worked in a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII, according to the Delmar FD, was determined solely by Rementer’s alleged sexual behavior towards her.
The trial court denied the Delmar FD’s motion for dismissal. In doing so, the trial court rejected the Delmar FD’s argument that Molchan could not support her sexual harassment claim with evidence that Rementer sexually harassed other women. The trial court explained that evidence showing Rementer sexually harassed other women was relevant to whether the Delmar FD knew or should have known that Rementer was sexually harassing women in the workplace, including Molchan. Testimony from other women about Rementer’s sexual behavior towards them, the trial court reasoned, “suggests that Rementer’s conduct was well-known within the fire department.” The trial court also found that evidence showing that Rementer sexually harassed other women was relevant to whether Molchan “subjectively perceived the environment to be abusive.” In other words, the trial court reasoned, Rementer’s sexual behavior towards other women was part of Molchan’s work environment and contributed to the creation of a work environment which Molchan subjectively believed constituted a sexually hostile work environment.
Sexual Harassment Lawyers In Ocala, FL
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Central Florida, our sexual harassment attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to representing sexual harassment victims. If you have endured sexual harassment in the workplace or have questions about your rights as a sexual harassment victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our sexual harassment lawyers in Ocala, Florida. Our employees’ rights attorneys take 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.