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EEOC Resolves Hostile Work Environment Case Alleging Worker Subjected To Same-Sex Sexual Harassment

Girl Sexual Harassment Hands Illustration

For more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys have fought for the rights of Florida employees who have been required to work in a sexually hostile environment. Through their decades of experience representing sexual harassment victims, our Ocala, Florida sexual harassment lawyers know that an enduring employment law myth is that federal employment discrimination law does not protect employees from same-sex sexual harassment. Because of this enduring myth, sexual harassment victims are often unaware that they have worked in a sexually hostile environment in violation of federal employment discrimination law. In this article, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment lawyers explain how a same-sex sexual harassment lawsuit recently settled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrates that same-sex sexual harassment is an unlawful discriminatory employment practice under federal employment discrimination law.

Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

On November 17, 2021, the EEOC issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree resolving a same-sex sexual harassment lawsuit against Shelley’s Septic Tank, Inc. (Shelley’s Septic). On July 21, 2020, the EEOC filed the same-sex sexual harassment lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Shelley’s Septic Tank, Inc., Case No. 6:20-cv-01285, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. In the Consent Decree, which U.S. District Court Judge Carlos E. Mendoza signed on November 16, 2021, Shelley’s Septic agreed to pay $82,500 to resolve the same-sex sexual harassment lawsuit.

The EEOC filed the same-sex sexual harassment lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of a former employee of Shelley’s, a man named Colon. The EEOC claims that Colon was subjected to same-sex sexual harassment in violation of Title VII. The EEOC further claims that Colon was fired in retaliation for complaining about the same-sex sexual harassment.

Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Is Unlawful

Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, sexual harassment, including same-sex sexual harassment, is a form of sex discrimination forbidden by Title VII. To violate Title VII, sexual harassment, including same-sex sexual harassment, must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment. In order to protect sexual harassment victims, Title VII also protects employees from retaliation when they complain about perceived sexual harassment, including same-sex sexual harassment, in the workplace.

Worker Claims Sexual Hostile Work Environment

Shelley’s Septic is a septic tank cleaning company based in Orlando, Florida. Shelley’s Septic is owned by a man named Shelley. In February 2017, Colon began working for Shelley’s Septic as a truck driver. Throughout his employment, according to the EEOC, Colon was subjected to unwanted sexually harassing behavior by Shelley. The unwelcome sexual behavior by Shelley towards Colon included sexual comments, sexual propositions, physical touching, and blowing kisses. Colon repeatedly objected to the sexual behavior, telling Shelley not to do that and to stop. Despite Colon’s opposition, the EEOC claims that Shelley’s harassment continued unabated.

Because Shelley’s Septic did not have a sexual harassment policy or a human resources department, Colon made a complaint on May 4, 2018 to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office regarding the unwanted sexually harassing behavior by Shelley. That same day, two sheriff deputies interviewed Shelley regarding Colon’s sexual harassment allegations. During the interview, Shelley repeatedly stated that he planned to take action against the employee who made the police report. The deputies, according to the EEOC, warned Shelley not to retaliate against the employee who made the police report. On May 8, 2018, the first day Colon came to work after his complaint to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Colon attempted to begin his workday when he was stopped by Shelley. Shelley then terminated Colon’s employment by informing him that he was no longer working for him at Shelley’s.

Helping Sexual Harassment Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the federal government responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal employment discrimination law. In enforcing employment discrimination law, the EEOC brings lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including same-sex sexual harassment victims.

In a press release issued on November 21, 2021 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Robert E. Weisberg, explained that “sexually harassing employees violates federal law no matter the gender of the victim or the harasser.” In commenting on the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Paul Valenti, stated that this Consent Decree “sends a strong message to businesses and business owners that failing to prevent and address sex harassment against employees, especially when perpetrated by management, will have serious consequences.”

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 litigated sexual harassment cases in Florida courts for more than two decades. If you have experienced same-sex sexual harassment or have questions about your protection against same-sex sexual harassment under federal employment discrimination law, 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.

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